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Boston University Postdoctoral Research Scholar, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology in Boston, Massachusetts

The Department of Sociology at Boston University invites applications for a Postdoctoral Research Scholar position to work on research related to criminal justice and health. Specifically, the postdoctoral fellow will work on data and analysis for the Pennsylvania Solitary Study (PASS), while continuing developing their own research projects. PASS is an interdisciplinary investigation of the structural determinants of health inequities in the context of incarceration, including solitary confinement, harsh prison conditions, environmental exposures, and other factors, see additional details on the study below. The position is full-time and begins on July 1, 2022. Exact starting date is negotiable. This appointment will initially be for one year, but is renewable for up to one additional year based on satisfactory performance and availability of funding. The Postdoctoral Research Scholar will be expected to regularly work and attend meetings in Boston.

The Postdoctoral Research Scholar will actively participate in program activities related to PASS: managing and analyzing data, conducting literature reviews, contributing to academic publications and policy briefs, and developing protocols for archiving data. The postdoctoral scholar will have numerous opportunities to publish research from the project.

The Postdoctoral Research Scholar will have strong statistical and quantitative skills and experience analyzing administrative panel data, preferably in R or Stata. The Postdoctoral Research Scholar will also have broad understanding of qualitative research methods.

The Postdoctoral Research Scholar will devote eighty percent (80%) of their work hours to PASS and twenty percent (20%) to their own research projects.

Required Skills

Minimum Degree Required

Applicants must have a Ph.D. by date of hire and must have received the degree within the past three years.

Minimum Qualifications

  • Ph.D. in public health, sociology, or related social science discipline

  • Knowledge of U.S. prison system, penal conditions, and solitary confinement

  • Substantial quantitative expertise, including familiarity with econometric methods and other approaches to causal inference

  • Strong communication, interpersonal, and organizational skills

  • Record of excellent scholarship and promise for development as research scholar

Preferred Qualifications

  • Experience analyzing administrative panel data

  • Understanding of qualitative research methods

  • Candidates with prior experience in criminal legal histories or lived experience relating to the criminal legal system are strongly encouraged to apply

  • Ability to work independently on a daily basis to handle complex situations and confidential information with a high level of discretion

  • The candidate is expected to work well in a team and effectively communicate the results of their research orally and in writing

Additional Information

Breaking new ground in research on prisons and inequality, the Pennsylvania Solitary Study (PASS) aims to understand how harsh conditions of confinement may affect health and well-being for incarcerated populations and their communities; identify the effects of solitary confinement on social, economic, and health outcomes after prison release, including physical and mental health conditions; and describe the conditions of living and working in high levels of custody in a large U.S. prison system. PASS is a collaborative, mixed-methods study led by Jessica Simes and Bruce Western (Columbia University), that includes a longitudinal survey of men incarcerated in solitary confinement in a maximum-security prison in Pennsylvania, interviews with incarcerated people and prison staff, a neurocognitive battery administered to incarcerated respondents, and administrative records from the prison and parole systems.

A primary goal of the project is to clean, code, and analyze the rich administrative, survey, qualitative, and neurocognitive data resulting from the PASS data collection. A second goal of the project is to write up and disseminate findings to a broad range of audiences, including academic, policy, and advocacy audiences. A third goal is to drive data-driven prison reform in the areas of solitary confinement and reentry.

Please email the following required materials as separate attachments to simes@bu.edu:

  • CV

  • Cover Letter

  • Statement of research interests (2-pages max)

  • Copies of one or two representative publications or preprints

  • Contact information for at least three references

Review of applications will begin on December 1.

We are an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law. We are a VEVRAA Federal Contractor.

Required Experience

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