Associate Professor of Political Science at MIT, Director of the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI), and Secretary of the Faculty. His major research interests are Mexican politics, democratization, political communication, and voting. Professor Lawson’s recent work has focused on voting behavior in Mexico, the effect of candidates’ physical appearance on their electoral success, the psychological basis of political clientelism, and the conditions under which political leaders effect large-scale political outcome (such as regime change).

From September 2009 through February 2011, Professor Lawson was on leave from MIT as a political appointee in the Obama Administration, serving as Executive Director and Senior Advisor to the Commissioner at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Professor Lawson was a National Fellow at The Hoover Institution, Stanford University (2002-2003) and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Center for U.S.-Mexico Studies at the University of California, San Diego (1998-99). He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1999. Before joining the MIT faculty, he served as a Director of Inter-American Affairs on the National Security Council.