Abigail Sticha is working with Professor Ernesto Verdeja on his research pertaining to mass violence, genocide, and civil wars. Sticha assists both Professor Verdeja and PhD student Angela Chesler in their research on the triggers of mass violence and the dynamics of violence escalation, sustainment, and declines. As a research assistant, Sticha is training support vector machines (SVMs) for the nine triggers that often precede state led mass killings. The SVM kernels will automate the text classification process for the triggers of mass violence project, which will allow the team to more quickly find trends in the text data. These trends will inform policy makers on what factors may lead to the next event of mass violence within a country.
In the summer of 2020, Sticha participated in an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates at the Notre Dame Center for Research Computing. Under the mentorship of Professor Paul Brenner, Sticha’s primary focus was to research the advantages and disadvantages of utilizing support vector machines for natural language processing and event classification within the social sciences. Sticha also created a replicable machine coding framework that future social scientists will be able to utilize to perform text classification with relatively small data sets. In order to create this framework, Sticha used the Triggers of Mass Killings project as a case study for training the support vector machine algorithm.