29: Roi Zur


Political Science

Program and year of study

PhD, 5th year

Previous degrees and colleges

BA and MA from Tel-Aviv University in Israel

Where did you grow up?

In a small city near Tel-Aviv, Israel

Where do you live now?

The university family housing in Davis

What's your favorite spot in Davis?

Central Park, especially because it is close to Burgers and Brew

How do you relax?

Play with my kid and hang out with my wife (when she’s not studying or grading)

What was the last book you read for pleasure?

Can’t even remember, but probably a political biography

What TV show are you currently binge-watching?

The Goldbergs, MasterChef, and some Israeli stuff when I have free time

Research interests

I am mostly interested in voting and party behavior in European countries. I work on two broad research agendas. The first looks at the causes of why voters do not vote for the parties that best represent their ideology (specifically with respect to small centrist parties). The second research agenda tries to determine why some parties consistently win representation in parliament, while others fail to do so.  

Dissertation title or topic

Stuck in the Middle: Ideology, Valence, and the Electoral Failures of Centrist Parties

Please share a surprising or noteworthy fact or finding from your research

Representative democracy works better than most people give it credit for.

Which professor or class inspired you to pursue graduate studies?

I took a game theory class in my second year of undergrad. It was mind-blowing and I enjoyed every minute of it. I still use this knowledge in my work every day and hope to continue doing that for many more years. 

Which scholarly text do you wish you had written? Why?

An Economic Theory of Democracy by Anthony Downs. It is one of the most influential works in political science. This book formalized a discussion about the way we think of the representation of people’s interests in democracy. Although most of the conclusions of this book haven’t survived the test of time, its methodology still serves as a major paradigm in my field. 

Which other researchers at UC Davis are doing work that particularly interests you?

Arik Davidyan from the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior works on the molecular regulation of testosterone effects on skeletal muscle. His research may have important implications for prostate cancer treatment.

McCage Griffiths from the Department of Political Science is working on the causes and implications of parties’ policy shifts—that is, what makes parties change their stands on different political issues.    

What’s the best thing about being a grad student?

I get to do what I love, when I want to do it, around some very smart people. 

What's the worst?

It is stressful, competitive, and you do not get positive feedback too often.

If you weren't a grad student, what would you be doing?

I would probably have become a teacher. I worked as a sub for many years. I like it, but not as much as I like grad school.

Finally, please ask yourself a question

What do you miss the most from your pre-grad school life?

Traveling! I used to travel much more often before grad school...  


—November 2017


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