About Me

I am a fourth-year Ph.D candidate in American Politics and Political Methodogy in the Department of Political Science at Vanderbilt University. In addition, I am a Graduate Research Affiliate in the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions and a University Graduate Fellow. I graduated magna cum laude from the University of California, Los Angeles with a B.A. in Political Science. In March 2023, I will be a Democracy Center Visiting Scholar at the University of Rochester.

My research focuses on the relationships between campaign positioning, electoral competition, and campaign finance in congressional elections, with a particular emphasis on primary races. In my dissertation project, I leverage original data on House primary candidates’ positions to investigate how election dynamics and (sub)constituencies shape campaign positions, and whether these positions provide meaningful signals about future legislative behavior. My other solo and co-authored work uses causal inference tools, experiments, and structural estimation to evaluate the determinants and effects of money in congressional elections.

I am originally from Portland, Oregon and my free time is mostly spent traveling, cooking, writing amateur restaurant reviews, and volunteering weekly at my local Planned Parenthood.

For questions, comments, or drafts of working papers, I can be reached at mellissa.b.meisels@vanderbilt.edu. You can find my current CV here.