CISAC Honors Program Presentations | Ben Boston and Eva Frankel



Ben Boston and Eva Frankel

Date and Time

April 23, 2020 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM


RSVP Required.


Virtual Seminar

Seminar Recording:


About this Event:

Ben Boston

1:30 PM - 2:15 PM 

Introductions will start at 1:30pm. Each presentation will be 20 minutes with a 10 minute discussion.

Title: America in East Africa: Security Partnerships, Aid Dependence, and Diplomatic Leverage

Abstract: Why is the United States able to shape the actions of friendly nations? In this thesis, I offer an answer by examining cases of military invasions by and domestic political liberalization effort of the Kenyan and Ugandan governments since the end of the Cold War. Drawing on academic, journalistic, and participant reporting of each case, including interviews with key American policymakers, I test three theoretical frameworks: balance of interests, dependence, and coercive diplomacy. Through these I attempt to explain American influence over the 1998 Ugandan and Rwandan invasion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the 2011 Kenyan invasion of southern Somalia, the 1991 Kenyan reinstitution of multiparty politics, and the 2005 Ugandan abolition of presidential term limits and reinstitution of multiparty politics. The existing literature on these cases focuses on outcomes broadly, and on African states’ comparative ability to secure agency relative to the wishes of their donors. Taking the United States as my focus, in this comparative case study, I find consistent limits to America’s ability to shape the actions of Kenya and Uganda regarding their core interests; however, clear, sustained application of coercive diplomacy still altered outcomes — especially when it used the leverage offered by dependence. This thesis creates a model of American agency in maximizing leverage over aid-dependent states.



Eva Frankel

2:15 PM - 2:50 PM

Introductions will start at 1:30pm. Each presentation will be 20 minutes with a 10 minute discussion.

Title: Assessing the Threat of Bioterror from Lone Insiders in Biological Laboratories

Abstract: As the cost of DNA synthesis and sequencing drops and the life sciences advance, the literature suggests that synthesizing and weaponizing pathogens may have become within reach for non-state actors, creating a fundamental shift from a Cold War framework focused on the capabilities of state bioweapons programs to one focused on the threat posed by mass-casualty attacks perpetrated by terrorists. Lone insiders in biological laboratories, who have technical training and access to laboratory equipment, are considered a particular threat. Given the scholarship that suggests lone insiders in biological laboratories pose a significant security threat, why have there been no mass-casualty attacks perpetrated by lone insiders using pathogens? This thesis considers the capabilities of potential malicious actors in biological laboratories to weaponize pathogens, and their motivations to perpetrate mass-casualty attacks. Drawing on bibliometric data from synthetic virology papers, I argue that the historical threshold for capability required to weaponize pathogens is prohibitory to those who are not early adopters or innovators in the field of synthetic virology. Furthermore, I show that the malicious acts historically perpetrated by lone insiders are best characterized as biocrimes rather than bioterrorist acts, and transnational groups have not sought to recruit insiders in biological laboratories. By more fully understanding the threat of bioterrorism posed by lone insiders, policymakers and research institutions can work to ensure laboratory safety and security while promoting open science.