Centennial Labs

What is a “Centennial Lab”?

Centennial Labs are SFS classes built around an issue, idea, problem, or challenge in a real community. They are both cross-curricular and experiential at the core. Students work with one or more professors across disciplines to learn the theory critical to understanding the situation. They develop practical approaches or solutions within the “lab”; and share it with the community beyond the classroom.

SFS began a series of pilot Centennial Labs in the last year. Currently, there are four functioning Labs, but SFS will be expanding the program with seven additional Centennial Labs in spring of 2018, with more offerings planned for the future. Preference for enrollment will be given to students who have yet to take a Centennial Lab.


Pilot Centennial Labs

The India Innovation Lab: Drought

Professors Irfan Nooruddin and Mark Giordano, Fall 2016 / Spring 2017
This year-long class that challenged students to explore the politics, hydrology, and infrastructure elements required to solve the problem of drought in Maharashtra, India. The spring semester focused on the policy, economic, and ethical dimensions of potential solutions, with students designing solutions in collaboration with experts in the field, stakeholders, and the Maharashtra government. Selected students traveled to Bombay, Maharashtra, during the summer of 2017 to present policy recommendations to high-level officials in the Maharashtra government.



Professor Marc Busch, Fall 2016, 2017
TradeLab is a unique legal clinic for undergraduate students, the goal being to prepare a legal case for the United States Trade Representative. Established under TradeLab.org, a Geneva-based institution, TradeLab works with USTR and other U.S. federal agencies to map out a potential dispute at the World Trade Organization. Students gain fluency in the underlying politics, economics and law of a commercial rivalry, working closely with the USTR and other federal agencies, domestic industries, and foreign stakeholders. Students sign a confidentiality agreement, given the sensitivity surrounding the case, and become a part of TradeLab.org and its global network.


Diplomacy Lab

Fall 2017
“Diplomacy Lab” is a State Department partnership with Georgetown and other US universities that allows small student teams — guided by faculty members — to conduct policy relevant research on issues that State Department offices or embassies would like to understand better. The SFS Institute for the Study of Diplomacy is the “Diplomacy Lab” coordinator for Georgetown. Fall 2017 projects relate to the “Business Case for Climate Change Adaptation” (Professor Joanna Lewis) and “Security Assistance and Human Rights” (Professor Nicole Bibbins-Sedaca). The student teams engage directly with State Department officials at least twice during the semester and final products will be policy memos with supporting research and data attached.


Global Governance Lab

Professors Abraham Newman and Erik Voeten, Spring 2017 / Fall 2017
This lab included two research groups. Professor Erik Voeten worked with 15 students from the Krogh Seminar on the Multilateral Moneyball project initiated by the State Department’s International Organization Bureau (IOB). In January 2017, the class received instructions from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Erin Barkley and Director of Regional Policy and Coordination Andrew Hyde to find useful insights from data for the conduct of multilateral diplomacy. This group will be presenting their findings to the IOB. Professor Abraham Newman worked with a PhD student from the Government Department, an MA student in SFS, and four SFS undergraduate students to investigate the global governors of financial governance. The team collected membership data on all of the organizations that develop standards and regulations related to global financial governance. It is now writing an academic manuscript explaining the dataset and offering insights into the participants and gaps in financial governance. The goal is to publish the work in a peer-reviewed journal and for the dataset to be the go to reference for researchers on the topic.


Spring 2018 Centennial Labs

India Innovation Lab: Designing for Public Health

INAF 312-13, Fall 2017 and Spring 2018, Professors Irfan Nooruddin and Mark Giordano
In its second year, this lab will ask students to design interventions to improve the quality of public health and sanitation governance in the state of Bihar, India. In the fall, students will explore modules teaching the political, economic, and sociological dimensions of public health in India. The spring semester will focus on the development and implementation of potential solutions, which students will design working in close collaboration with experts in the field and government and civil society stakeholders. Students will be offered the opportunity to travel to India during spring break or the summer.


Development and Displacement in the Arab World

ARST 367, Professors Rochelle Davis and Fida Adely
This lab will focus on different types of development (such as community-based development, state-driven, NGOs, international bodies) as solutions to emergency crises and protracted displacements in the Arab world. The disciplinary focus is anthropological, addressing issues related to economics, politics, society, heritage, and law. During spring break, students will have the option of traveling to Jordan to learn about community-based development projects and the impact of displacement on communities. Students will then develop a final project related to community-based development in Jordan, or prepare a proposal for such a project in Iraq or Syria or for Syrian refugees. Students will be offered the opportunity to travel to Jordan during spring break.


Politics and Performance: Confronting the Past, Shaping the Future

CULP 290, Professors Derek Goldman and Cynthia Schneider
This lab will examine how cultural products such as performances, memorials, films, music, and literature narrate and shape how people understand and remember the complex and fraught histories of their culture. Students will look at the intersection of politics and performance from the past and the present, from Cambodia to post World War II Europe, to Australia, West Africa, South Africa, and the United States.

Over spring break, the class will travel to Cambodia as guests of Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) along with current Lab Fellow Chankethya Chey, Artistic Director of Amrita Performing Arts in Cambodia, visiting key sites of memory of the Cambodian genocide and a circus and arts school. Back on campus, students will share their experiences intellectually and creatively as part of relevant public events on World Theatre Day and/or Holocaust Remembrance Day. Students will be offered the opportunity to travel to Cambodia during spring break.


Applied Biotechnology

STIA 310, Professor Libbie Prescott
Biotechnology has traditionally focused on biomedical or healthcare related applications. Its recent convergence with other technological fields (such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the internet of things) is changing how biology is being applied, presenting many opportunities for rapid and complex economic and social change. This lab will build a foundation of knowledge about biology, biotechnology, and various cutting-edge applications in the field through exploring a range of applications of biotechnology. The science will be taught by framing around real world issues and opportunities that arise from this rapidly advancing field. Students will be provided opportunities to experiment first-hand with genetic engineering and explore foreign policy topics relevant to the application of the technology.


Python for Policy

STIA 312, Professor Vivek Srinivasan
In this lab, students will get a basic introduction to programming using versatile programming language Python and then examine how programming could be helpful in day-to-day work and non-engineering careers. They will also learn how to set up a web server to share their work with the world.


Civic Technology Lab

STIA 321, Professor Vivek Srinivasan
In this Lab, students will convert civic tech ideas into working prototypes using design thinking and Python programming. After surveying civic tech experiments from around the world in domains such as collective decision making, mobilization, transparency, and government-citizen engagement, students (who will be taught the basics of Python programming and come from a variety of backgrounds) will work in multidisciplinary teams to develop ideas and a working prototype.


International Air Quality Lab

STIA 315, Professor Colin McCormick
In this class, students will study the current status of measurements of air quality, with a particular focus on outdoor urban environments in developing countries where air pollution is a significant public health problem. Working in teams at the Georgetown Maker Hub, students will design and build a complete, low-cost air quality measurement device based on Arduino microcontrollers. They will then deploy it in an urban environment (either in the DC area, or other locations), and collect and analyze the resulting data, placing it in a global context. Students will additionally study how poor air quality impacts human health, the sources of air pollution, and policies enacted or or under consideration to reduce air pollution in various countries. At the end of the semester, students will present their results from measurements and policy analysis to relevant policy makers and will develop a proposal and business case for installing a professional-grade air quality sensor on the Georgetown campus.


Future Centennial Labs

India Innovation Lab: Data

Professors Irfan Nooruddin and Joel Simmons

Combating Terrorism Lab

Professor Daniel Byman

Sri Lanka Conflict Resolution Lab

Professor Christine Fair

Refugee Lab

Professor Lahra Smith

Political Economy of Development in Africa

Professor Ken Opalo

Migration and Borders: Mexico, Central America, and the United States

Professor Katherine Donato