Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Photo of So Yeon (Ellen) Park

So Yeon (Ellen) Park is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Technology and International Security at the UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC) based in Washington, D.C. She recently received her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara. So Yeon’s research focuses on the intersection of security studies, emerging technology, and political psychology. Her research suggests an alternative theoretical framework of an interdisciplinary approach focused on individual leaders, which has largely been neglected in international relations scholarship. Her dissertation, “Why Do Leaders Matter?: Exploring Leaders’ Risk Propensities and Nuclear Proliferation,” won the Manzer-Wesson Award for Best Dissertation Prospectus. Incorporating theories and empirical studies from psychology and leadership studies in business management, her research introduces an individual’s risk propensity index that can screen and identify potential leaders given to making risk-taking decisions, such as pursuing nuclear weapons.

Prior to beginning her Ph.D. at UC Santa Barbara, So Yeon developed a broad set of research skills in both political science and psychology in South Korea. She received her M.A. in criminal psychology and participated in a large-scale project led by the Korean National Police Agency. She also worked as a commissioned officer in the Republic of Korea Army and held various positions, including a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) training instructor and a platoon leader at the 25th Infantry Division.

Plans for Fellowship: So Yeon plans to use the postdoctoral fellowship to turn her dissertation into a book manuscript and journal article introducing her new dataset on leader risk propensities. In examining how risk propensity affects nuclear pursuit, she will conduct a more in-depth investigation of leaders’ discretion in order to examine how and to what extent leaders’ risk propensities are constrained by environment.