Maurits van der Veen

Prof. Maurits van der Veen is the director of the STAIR lab and an associate professor in William & Mary's department of Government. His research focuses on how people think about politicized issues in international relations, including foreign aid and European integration. Hence his interest in analyzing texts: One of the best ways to gauge how someone thinks about an issue is to see how that person speaks or writes about it. STAIR lab takes advantage of exciting new data mining and machine learning methods that make it possible, for the first time, to do so systematically and efficiently with vast quantities of speeches or documents (big data!). More information about prof. van der Veen's research and teaching can be found here.



Ani Sinani

Ani is a senior studying international relations and finance. He is interested in development and security assistance, and the intersection between the public and private sector in Latin America. He has been involved with various research organizations on campus including AidData and the Project for International Peace and Security, and has spent the past two summers in Washington, DC interning at the Center for International Policy and the Inter-American Dialogue. After graduation, Ani hopes to attend graduate school and pursue a career in foreign affairs and development finance. His STAIR lab work has included research on press coverage of human rights abuses in the U.S. and world-wide as well as helping improve our automated geocoder.


Ben Dykstra

Ben is a senior majoring in Computational Applied Math and Statistics. His academic interests include data analytics and visualization, natural language processing, and various machine learning techniques. He has been part of the STAIR lab since the fall of 2015 and has worked on geocoding foreign aid as well as classifying scholarly articles. Ben is also involved in the Delta Chi fraternity and the Association for Computing Machinery. He occasionally enjoys Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain.


Samyuktha Mahadevan

Samyuktha Mahadevan is a sophomore majoring in international relations with a focus in data science. Her goal as a member of the Lab is to successfully create a search engine with prediction capacity for western legislative processes. She has been a part of the STAIR Lab for a year and has been on AidData's survey team for a year, where she worked over the summer. During this time she won a grant to pursue her research of the Congressional record. Samyuktha also participates in the Campus Kitchens Project's education team, is a competitive dancer on the Dhamaal Bhangra team as well as captain of the Dhamaal Bhangra B-Team, and is a TA for Breaking Intuition.


Rebecca Youngerman

Rebecca is a sophomore studying computer science and public health. She is interested in representing and analyzing big data using computer science, specifically in the field of global health. She previously worked for AidData on the survey practice team. Now, in the STAIR lab, she is working on the automated geocoder. On campus she is also on the rowing team and participates in ACM-W. This summer, Rebecca will be an intern in application systems at Johnson and Johnson.


Jacob Alter

Jacob Alter is a senior studying computer science and mathematics. He is interested in data analytics and machine learning, particularly within the field of natural language processing. At STAIR, he works on classifying the political alignment of speeches and analyzing trends in US coverage of international news. Jacob also does research on supply-chain data analytics with the Math Department. On campus, he helps lead the Lambda Alliance for LGBTQ activism and plays violin in various ensembles.


Amy Nelson

Amy is a sophomore studying international relations with a concentration in Latin American studies. She is interested in human rights, especially women rights internationally and in Latin America. Outside of STAIR lab, she is involved in the Bone Marrow Drive, a greek sorority, and was an Orientation Aide.


Tim Chen

Tim Chen is a sophomore studying government and economics. At STAIR, he works on the project ideology across time and space. He also does research on the UN Security Council regarding international authorization with Professor Cleveland in the Government Department. On campus, Tim is a varsity rower for the W&M Crew Team and is also involved with the Pineapple Kids organization.


Sam Desmarais

Sam Desmarais is a freshman intending to major in international relations and computer science. He is interested in the international development, specifically the efficacy and use of foreign aid. As part of the STAIR Lab, he works on analyzing congressional and parliamentary debate on foreign aid. On campus, Sam is involved in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and the International Relations Club, and works at the Rec Center.


Varun Desai

Varun Desai is a freshman whose academic interests focus on data analytics and data science. At STAIR, his work revolves around the text mining of media coverage of foreign and minority groups, therefore recognizing polarity across media. In addition, Varun will be conducting geospatial research and analysis with Professor Tyler Frazier at AidData. Over the summer, he plans on pursuing a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in big data analytics. In addition, he is also a part of Model United Nations at the International Relations Club and a member of the W&M Debate Team.


... more student bios coming soon!