Nicholas W. Waterbury

Nicholas W. Waterbury

About Me

I am a political scientist and Assistant Research Director for the Center for State Policy and Leadership on the University of Illinois' Springfield campus. I obtained my Ph.D. in political science from Washington University in St. Louis in 2022. Previously I earned an A.M. from WUSTL and a B.A. in political science from Michigan State University. Outside of the discipline, I enjoy spending time on the tennis court, walking my Labrador Mix, and traveling an excessive distance to watch sporting events.


My research uses quantitative analysis to answer substantive questions across American politics, with a specialization in the US judiciary. The majority of my work focuses on the ways psychological factors affect political decision-makers. I also study separation of powers questions with projects on the judicial nomination process and the executive branch's performance in court. Finally, I have a cursory interest in the political behavior, with research that considers how different types of electoral systems, judicial selection methods, and scandals impact the choices voters make. My work has been published in Political Research Quarterly , the Journal of Law and Courts, and the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics.


My dissertation incorporates the study of heuristics and cognitive biases into the study of judicial decision-making. These phenomena have been shown in experimental settings to greatly influence the impartiality of judges. However, these findings, which raise serious theoretical and normative concerns for court observers, are subject to external validity concerns. In my dissertation, I find convergence between the experimental results and real-world observational data. In the first project, I study the effect of an attorney's physical attractiveness on their success in the US Courts of Appeals. In the second, I test the influence of an approaching presidential election on the decision making of US Supreme Court justices. In the third, I examine the effectiveness of diversity jurisdiction by testing for home-state bias in the federal courts. All of my results support the inclusion of psychological biases in the study of judicial behavior.