PSCI Research Assistant profiles

Research Assistant profiles

Michael Opatowski - Research AssistantMichael

Project Title: I worked on the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funded "Sociocultural Mapping of the Canadian Arab-Mapping". I also worked on the "Diplomacy as Practice" project, and on the project entitled "Methodological Nationalism in the Saudi-Yemen Crisis."

What were your duties? 

Working for Dr. Habib was both intellectually stimulating and highly rewarding. I developed many skills through my tasks under her instruction. These included but were not limited to --- conducting comprehensive literature reviews, tracking political events, incorporating field notes and interviews, and examining sources in multiple languages. Dr. Habib showed me how to account for research that utilized different methodologies from a variety of academic disciplines. As a part of this research process, I also drafted annotated bibliographies and several academic papers that eventually were fed into overall projects. 

What skills did you gain while undertaking the project? 

Dr. Habib has always pushed me to explore the assumptions underlying the questions that we pursued in our research on topics that include but are not limited to --- diplomacy, foreign relations between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, the political economy of the Middle East, the nexus between humanitarianism and conflict. Factual content was necessary yet never sufficient on its own. In other words, she advised me on the ways to analyze the research methodologies that were employed by various institutions in their studies. And she taught me how to examine the ideological and political constructs that framed information in particular ways.  

What was the best part of your RA? 

Dr. Habib has always been a mentor to me, constantly challenging me intellectually to explore the limits of conventional analysis to generate new forms of knowledge and insights about the world. It was a both a pleasure and an honour to have been Dr. Habib's research assistant

Nicole Georges - Research Assistant

NicoleI worked with Dr. Jasmin Habib on various projects that emerged from her work as the lead investigator on a SSHRC project entitled “A Socio-Cultural Mapping of the Canadian Arab Community” as well as in her capacity as the Editor in Chief of Anthropologica, the journal of the Canadian Anthropology Society.

What were your duties?

As an RA, my tasks revolved around conducting literature searches, annotating sources, and editing. Some of these responsibilities entailed working alongside another RA to compile a lengthy annotated bibliography on Canadian Arab experiences of migration, settlement and integration and making it accessible to a wider public.

I also assisted Dr. Habib with the preparation of her book manuscript, which was in its final stages. This involved not only reading the manuscript, but also situating it within the recent historiography on the Palestinian diaspora and resettlement in the West.

Finally, I enjoyed the opportunity to do some translation work (from English to French) for Anthropologica’s Report to the Membership, which Dr. Habib had prepared for the Annual Meetings of the Canadian Anthropology Society.

Were there any specific skills you learned while working on the project?

This was my first time reviewing a manuscript and doing translation work for a major publication. These were very informative experiences and I appreciated the opportunity to be trusted with these responsibilities. The work as an RA also allowed me to further hone my research and writing skills and introduced me to new areas of research.

What was/is the best part of your RA?

As an RA, I have gained a better insight into the various projects and responsibilities professors have outside of their teaching roles. Moreover, working on projects outside of my core discipline of History and Global Governance helped me to broaden my research horizons. I was reassured by Dr. Habib that my lack of experience on these subjects could also be considered an advantage in those cases where I was writing for a general public because it allowed me to bring in an outsider’s perspective. Dr. Habib’s trust in me that I could contribute to her work was very encouraging.

On a personal note, her mentorship has been very instrumental in helping me to develop my own work. I really enjoyed my experience working as an RA for Dr. Habib.

Zainab Ramahi - Undergraduate Research Assistant

Zainab RamahiWhat was your academic program?
Joint Honours Knowledge Integration & Political Science, minor in History, 2015

What was the research project you worked on?
I worked with Dr. Veronica Kitchen for one year, researching Integrated Counter-Terrorism Institutions as part of the Governing (in)Security research team. More specifically, I was tasked with tracking the intellectual and political development of the idea of 'integration' as a solution to institutional failures in counter-terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11. I also helped to organize and facilitate the Global Youth Forum 2014, hosted at Centre for International Governance Innovation for 120 high school students from around the region. Participants were led through role-playing simulations in order to learn about the decision-making processes and major players involved in complex political decisions.

What were your duties?
I was primarily responsible for reviewing and recording existing documents in Dr. Kitchen's databases to help track the development of integration as well as finding new documents on the same subject. This culminated in a media and literature review report for Dr. Kitchen. For the Global Youth Forum, I helped to create a trio of historical scenario simulations in which student participants were faced with the reality of making tough choices about security. I also helped recruit university students as volunteer facilitators, I coordinated the simulations on the day of the forum, and I designed the suite of documents used during the simulations to facilitate their integration into high school curriculum. 

Did you learn any specific skills while working on the project?
For the research work, I had to become familiar with some software: Zotero, a reference management software, and NVivo, a qualitative data analysis software. At first it sounded intimidating, but I actually ended up using these programs for my own projects, including my thesis work, which was incredibly helpful! I certainly strengthened my critical reading skills during the project - I read hundreds of media and journal articles looking for specific information. My research skills in general certainly improved throughout my work for Dr. Kitchen - something I know will be useful in my postgraduate education. 

What was the best part of being a Research Assistant?
I loved being an RA! Dr Kitchen gave me a lot of independence, which I liked a lot. The hours are typically very flexible too, while there was a goal number of hours I was to be working each week, it didn't matter when during the day I worked. The opportunity to dive into an area of research that interests you with an expert in the field is pretty incredible, I sometimes found myself getting lost in Senate debates because the discussions were so fascinating! And most of all, the  mentorship and guidance that your professor offers you cannot be appreciated enough. 

Dani Marcheva - Research Assistant

Dani MarchevaName of the project you worked on and with who:
I worked on the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Strategic Research Grant entitled "The Environmental Assessment Processes of Canadian 'Frontier' Oil and Gas" with Dr. Angela Carter

What were your duties?
One of the reasons why I enjoyed my RA work was because I had various tasks. Most of my duties involved searching news media outlets online for particular articles and podcasts, which were related to Angela’s project. After selecting the relevant media items, I put them together in chronological reports. I often produced timelines or summaries with the most important events, debates or incidents. I liked doing the news media scans because I got to read and listen to different provincial and national outlets on topics that were interesting to me. Scanning field notes was also part of my duties. Through doing this task, I could see how political science researchers do interviews and other fieldwork.

Were there any specific skills you learned while working on the project?
I definitely improved my communication skills through my regular check-in meetings with Angela. I also have a better understanding of what political science research entails and how to conduct it. Therefore, now I have much more insights into different research methods.

What was/is the best part of your RA?
The best part was meeting with Angela and talking about the progress of the research. I am also glad that I undertook the RA because I look up to Angela as a great mentor. It was also very convenient that I could do my RA work whenever I had free time.