New Faculty Friday: Q&A with David Cottrell

SPIA is excited to introduce David Cottrell, assistant professor of political science. David Cottrell received his PhD from the University of Michigan in 2015. His main research interests are the way electoral rules shape representation in the United States.  Electoral rules can include everything from the rules that map voters to legislative districts, to the rules that regulate who can vote and who cannot, to the rules that determine how votes get cast on Election Day. His research uses data science and computational techniques to discover which of these rules is most important to electoral systems and American democracy. When he’s not working, he likes to spend his time doing CrossFit.

What attracted you to UGA?

DC: UGA is a world-class research university that attracts excellent students and faculty doing cutting-edge research across a variety of disciplines.  It is exciting to be a part of an institution like this. Also, after living in Michigan and New Hampshire for a number of years, I’m really looking forward to the mild winters here in Athens! 

 

Where did you grow up? 

DC: I grew up in California, just south of San Francisco. 

 

What are you working on that you’re most excited about?  

DC: My research on gerrymandering leverages computer-automated districting algorithms to detect and measure the effect of partisan bias in the districting process.  This research has focused mostly on Congress, but I am really excited to be working on an extension of this research that focuses on detecting bias in state legislative maps across the country.   

 

What was your favorite part of your college experience? 

DC: I enjoyed college for a number of reasons.  But I actually think my favorite part of my college experience was spending a quarter studying abroad.   I thought it was an amazing opportunity and I would recommend it to anyone who is considering it. 

 

What is your favorite food? 

DC: Salmon. I admit that I never give a consistent answer to this question.   

 

Please tell us one fun fact about yourself.  

DC: This summer I completed the Presidential Traverse!  The Presidential Traverse is a 23-mile hike across the Presidential Range of the White Mountains in upstate New Hampshire. It was 9,000 feet of elevation gain and took around 14 hours to complete.  It killed my knees, but the views were worth it. 

 

What are you looking forward to in the coming year? 

DC: Eating at all the amazing restaurants in Athens.  There are a lot of them!  

 

What is one goal you have for yourself for the next year? 

DC: My goal is to go on a road trip across Georgia.  I was disappointed that I missed out on the New Faculty Tour over the summer that toured 16 different cities in the state.  But I figured I’d just buy a guidebook and do a tour myself. 

 

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? 

DC: I’d like to be able to control time.  Sometimes it moves too fast. 

 

What advice do you have for SPIA students? 

DC: Ask for help when you need it.  Be proactive in taking advantage of all the services and resources that the university has to offer.