State Policy Program - Student Position for PFAS

Are you interested in studying issues related to community health, inequality, and access to clean water in the United States? Are you an advanced student in public policy, environmental management, or related social science field? Do you have experience collecting and analyzing qualitative research data? Do you have experience coordinating working groups? Are you dependable and organized?

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions seeks a motivated professional, masters, or senior-status student to join our State Policy Program research team focused on studying policy mechanisms to address emerging contaminants in drinking water supplies. Several communities in North Carolina are wrestling with the discovery of unregulated water contaminants (specifically per/polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS) in their drinking water supplies. Local government officials have tried a number of mechanisms intended to provide the public with information, to equitably provide water resources and tap testing to all members of the using and consuming public, and to address resource inadequacy for some communities. The State Policy Program is currently focusing on researching the challenges faced by these local governments through interviews with affected communities. The goal is to be able to develop best practices for other communities faced with similar challenges.

As a research assistant on this project, your role is foundational and may include helping with:

  • Collecting, coding, and analyzing data (including recruitment and interview/focus group organization) on the challenges of managing per/polyfluoroalkyl substances in drinking water supplies
  • Researching state regulations and policies related to disclosure of emerging contaminants
  • Completing research literature reviews and/or annotated bibliographies
  • Assisting with organizing working group meetings of decision makers in the Triangle area

The position will require approximately 10 hours of work per week beginning in late September 2019 through May 2020 (during times when the University is in session).   


The successful candidate will have demonstrated experience in qualitative research and data collection, demonstrated interest in environmental policy, eagerness to take initiative and solve intricate problems, excellent time-management skills and ability to work effectively with minimal supervision, and exceptional research and analytical writing skills. Prior background in environmental science, policy, or another relevant social science field is preferred, but not required. With respect to student rank, we are most interested in applications from graduate students, but we will also consider stand out applications from senior-rank undergraduate students with relevant experience.

About the Nicholas Institute

The Nicholas Institute provides decision makers in the public and private sectors with unbiased evaluations of policy risks and rewards as well as innovative, practical ideas for meeting complex challenges. For more information, please visit

To apply

Please email your resume, cover letter, and a brief writing sample to: Donna Brown,

Deadline for Submission

We will review applications on a rolling basis. The position will remain open until filled.

The intent of this job description is to provide a representation of the types and level of duties and responsibilities that will be required of positions given this title. It shall not be construed as a declaration of all specific duties and responsibilities of the particular position, as employees may be directed to perform job-related tasks other than those specifically presented in this description.

Duke University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer committed to providing employment opportunity without regard to an individual's age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status. Duke also makes good faith efforts to recruit, hire, and promote qualified women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, and veterans.