Dr Sara Polo

Senior Lecturer
Department of Government
Dr Sara Polo
  • Email

  • Telephone

    +44 (0) 1206 876347

  • Location

    5.419, Colchester Campus

  • Academic support hours

    Monday 3-5 pm Office 5.419



Sara Polo is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Government at the University of Essex. She was previously an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Sara’s research focuses on the causes, consequences, and diffusion of political violence, including terrorism and civil war, and gender-based violence in conflict and post-conflict settings. Some of her current projects examine the migration-terrorism nexus, the security and attitudinal effects of migration policies and their impact on intergroup conflict, insurgent state-building and terrorist tactics, unintended consequences of authoritarian institutions, gendered dimensions of civilian victimization, and attitudes toward public violence against women. Sara’s research on the migration-terrorism nexus has been awarded the 2019 American Political Science Association Best Paper Award (Conflict Processes) and the Network of European Peace Scientists Medal for best publication in 2021-2022. Her research has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Global Challenges Research Fund, and has been published in leading journals, including the Journal of Politics, International Organization, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Peace Research, International Studies Quarterly, and European Journal of International Relations, among others.


  • PhD in Government University of Essex,

  • MSc in International Relations University of Essex,


University of Essex

  • Senior Lecturer, University of Essex (1/10/2021 - present)

  • Lecturer, Government, University of Essex (1/1/2019 - 30/9/2021)

Other academic

  • Assistant Professor, Political Science, Rice University (1/7/2015 - 31/12/2018)

Research and professional activities

Research interests


Key words: Terrorism

Civil Conflict

Key words: Civil Conflict

Political Violence

Key words: Political Violence

Spatial Analysis of Conflict

Key words: Spatial Analysis of Conflict


Key words: Peacekeeping

Teaching and supervision

Previous supervision

Shiyi Xia
Shiyi Xia
Thesis title: The Problem of Violence in Popular Mobilization
Degree subject: Government
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 26/3/2024
Lydia Karga
Lydia Karga
Thesis title: The Internal Drivers of Women’S Post-Conflict Representation.
Degree subject: Government
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 8/8/2023


Journal articles (12)

Polo, S. and Welsh, B., Violent Competition and Terrorist Restraint. International Organization

Polo, SMT. and Wucherpfennig, J., (2022). Trojan Horse, Copycat, or Scapegoat? Unpacking the Refugees-Terrorism Nexus. The Journal of Politics. 84 (1), 33-49

Di Salvatore, J., Polo, S. and Ruggeri, A., (2022). Do UN peace operations lead to more terrorism? Repertoires of rebel violence and third-party interventions. European Journal of International Relations. 28 (2), 361-385

Polo, S. and Welsh, B., (2022). Terrorism and Counterterrorism Datasets: An Overview

Hinkkainen Elliott, K., Polo, SMT. and Reyes, L., (2021). Making Peace or Preventing It? UN Peacekeeping, Terrorism and Civil War Negotiations. International Studies Quarterly. Online (1), 29-42

Polo, SMT., (2020). The Quality of Terrorist Violence: Explaining the Logic of Terrorist Target Choice. Journal of Peace Research. 57 (2), 235-250

Polo, SMT. and Gonzalez, B., (2020). The Power to Resist: Mobilization and the Logic of Terrorist Attacks in Civil War. Comparative Political Studies. 53 (13), 2029-2060

Polo, SMT., (2020). A Pandemic of Violence? The Impact of COVID-19 on Conflict. Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy. 0 (0)

Polo, SMT., (2020). How Terrorism Spreads: Emulation and the Diffusion of Ethnic and Ethnoreligious Terrorism. Journal of Conflict Resolution. 64 (10), 1916-1942

Gleditsch, KS., Beardsley, K. and Polo, SMT., (2017). Issues in Data Collection: International Conflict

Polo, SMT. and Gleditsch, KS., (2016). Twisting arms and sending messages: Terrorist tactics in civil war. Journal of Peace Research. 53 (6), 815-829

Gleditsch, KS. and Polo, SMT., (2016). Ethnic inclusion, democracy, and terrorism. Public Choice. 169 (3-4), 207-229

Grants and funding


Boundaries of exclusion: the diffusion of border walls in a globalizing era

British Academy


Public Violence Against Women in Mexico

University of Essex (GCRF)

+44 (0) 1206 876347


5.419, Colchester Campus

Academic support hours:

Monday 3-5 pm Office 5.419