Write a Thesis

The Program on Science and Global Security has openings for graduate students interested in studying interdisciplinary problems related to our core issue areas. Students interested in pursuing a doctoral degree can either apply for a PhD program in the School of Public and International Affairs or for the PhD program in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE). To find out more, please, reach out to any member of our team.

The Program also works with Princeton University undergraduate students seeking advisers for a Junior Paper or Senior Thesis on topics related to our core issue areas.

Theses completed in recent years include an analysis of nonproliferation strategy in the centrifuge age (R. Scott Kemp, 2010); an analysis of how nuclear-armed adversaries understand and address conditions of mutual vulnerability (Caroline Milne, 2017); the conceptual development and experimental demonstration of a zero-knowledge warhead verification protocol (Sébastien Philippe, 2018); an assessment of nuclear safeguards on centrifuge enrichment plants (Mark Walker, 2018); and the development of an open-source simulation tool for nuclear archaeology applications (Julien de Troullioud de Lanversin, 2019). As part of our ongoing thesis projects, Mike Hepler develops a second-generation zero-knowledge verification system, Tamara Patton examines the role of satellite imagery in arms control decision-making and treaty verification, and Leyatt Betre analyzes how the work of U.S. and Soviet R&D communities informed their countries’ goals and attitudes in the area of arms control.

Take a Course

Hogs, Bats, and Ebola: An Introduction to One Health Policy (FRS 120), taught by Laura Kahn. Agriculture is the foundation of civilization. But agriculture comes with costs including environmental destruction and zoonotic infectious diseases of animals that infect humans. This interdisciplinary seminar will cover subjects such as basic epidemiology, public health and policy, history of food safety and security, history of meat production and consumption in the 20th century, essentials of zoonotic diseases, the politics of antimicrobial resistance, sanitation and hygiene, environmental health, and the national and international organizations that oversee health and agriculture. A series of disease outbreaks will be discussed and analyzed including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), avian influenza, Nipah virus, Q fever, and Ebola virus. Offered: Spring 2019, Fall 2019.

Scientists Against Time (FRS 134), taught by Harold Feiveson. This seminar explores some of the critical contributions of (mostly Allied) scientists, engineers, and mathematicians during World War II. Topics will include radar, the Spitfire and the Battle of Britain; cryptography and the breaking of the German Enigma code; microwave radar, operations research, and other technical breakthroughs in the Battle of the Atlantic against German submarines; the great advances in medicine—penicillin, anti-malarials, DDT and other—during the war; amphibious craft, advanced aircraft carriers, the B-29 Super-fortress in the Pacific theater; navigation aids, the proximity fuse, and the Mustang P-51 and the erratic history of strategic bombing; tides, weather, artificial harbors, deception in the D-Day invasion; and the Manhattan project to develop the atomic bomb. Offered: Spring 2019.

Life in a Nuclear-Armed World (FRS 144), taught by Zia Mian. This course looks at what it has meant to live with the bomb for the past seventy years. We use scholarly and popular writings as well as movies and documentaries to understand what it means to make nuclear weapons and to be prepared to use them, how and why the bomb has spread to nine states, the threat of nuclear terrorism, and the links between nuclear weapons and civilian nuclear energy programs. We look also at the economic, political, social, cultural, psychological and environmental costs of a nuclear armed world through the lives of people in nuclear communities and the struggles of the peace movement to ban the bomb. We explore the prospects for the future of nuclear weapons and the implications of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons adopted by 122 countries in 2017 at the United Nations. Offered: Spring 2019, Fall 2019.

The Science of Fission and Fusion Energy (AST/MAE/PHY/ENE 309), taught by Robert J. Goldston. Nuclear fission power offers a low-carbon source of electricity. However it also carries with it significant risks: nuclear proliferation (North Korea and Iran), major accidents (Fukushima), and waste disposal (Yucca Mountain). Fusion energy is moving towards realization as an alternative low-carbon source of energy from the nucleus. It carries fewer risks, but the timetable for its commercialization is not yet known. We will delve into the physics of these energy sources, so you can understand the issues for yourself. A benefit of this course is that you will expand your scientific skills by applying them to important real-world problems. Offered: Spring 2019.

Science and Global Security (WWS/MAE 353), taught by Alex Glaser. This course provides students with a basic technical understanding of the science and technology relevant to current and emerging national and global security issues. Topics covered in this course include nuclear weapons and their proliferation, biotechnology and biosecurity, delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction, new media and big data, cyberwarfare, machine learning, autonomous weapons, and superintelligence. In the second half of the semester, students work in small teams on in-depth case studies exploring a current or emerging global-security issue of their choice and combining both technical and policy analysis. Offered: Spring 2019, Spring 2020.

Unmaking the Bomb (MAE 354/574), taught by Alex Glaser. Nuclear weapons have re-emerged as one the main global security challenges of our time. Reducing the dangers posed by these weapons will require new verification technologies, and this course covers the relevant science and technology. Part I examines the fundamental principles of nuclear fission, nuclear radiation, and radiation detection. Hands-on prototyping team projects in Part II explore possible new inspection systems. These projects can involve autonomous robots, machine learning techniques, IoT devices, and new detector types. In a virtual-reality exercise at the end of the semester, we will examine the viability of these systems. Offered: Spring 2020.

Introduction to Experimental Methods (MAE 519), taught by Daniel Cohen, Luc Deike, Alex Glaser, Michael Littman, and Marcus Hultmark. General experimental methods course where tools from different subfields within mechanical and aerospace engineering are introduced and experiments are conducted by the students. The subfields include general data acquisition, material science, bioengineering, fluid mechanics, and applied physics. Offered: Fall 2018, Fall 2019.

Weapons of Mass Destruction and International Security (WWS 548), taught by Christopher F. Chyba. This course examines the roles of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons in international security historically, at present, and in possible futures. The technical basis for these weapons will be presented at a level suitable for the non-scientist, and the challenges of state and non-state acquisition or development will be assessed. Topics to be examined include deterrence, defense, preemption, arms control, nonproliferation, and plausible terrorist capabilities. Offered: Spring 2019.

Engage

The Program on Science and Global Security alongside its research, education and training contributes actively to the policy debates in a number of countries on our core areas. By adopting a role as citizen-scientists, through combining technical and policy research and advocacy, the Program has established itself as a significant independent voice in these debates. Its ideas have gained a wide audience among governments as well as non-governmental and international organizations.

To help stimulate, inform, and focus debates on policy initiatives in our core areas, the Program supports the development of new ideas and approaches in these fields. It shares its analysis, conclusions and recommendations in the form of reports, articles, presentations and briefings with international organizations, national governments, nongovernmental groups, relevant professional organizations, and the concerned public. Program members also serve in advisory capacities for government agencies, scientific bodies, international organizations and on the boards of directors of non-governmental organizations. Program researchers have advised the United Nations and governments, served on panels for the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and have worked with the Federation of American Scientists, the Arms Control AssociationPeace ActionGlobal Zero, and the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons, among others. Graduate students in the Program founded the Princeton Citizen-Scientists group.

Join the Team

Postdoctoral Fellowship (Starting September 2019): The Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University is seeking candidates with backgrounds in physics, engineering, or other relevant fields to fill one or more postdoctoral researcher or more senior positions for technical and policy research on nuclear arms control, disarmament, nonproliferation and nuclear energy and related challenges such as cyber-security. A PhD is required.

PhD in Public and International Affairs: Students can choose between the Security Cluster and the Science, Technology and Environmental Policy (STEP) Cluster. Application deadline is December 1, 2020.

PhD in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering: Application deadline is December 1, 2020.