Shay O'Brien studies elites and conservatives in the United States. Her areas of interest include economic sociology, elite sociology, race & ethnicity, and religion. Before beginning graduate school at Princeton, Shay worked on a large-scale randomized control trial at the social policy research firm MDRC. She graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Anthropology (Honors), where she was a research assistant in the Anthropology department and won the prizes for Best Honors Thesis and Highest Achievement in Linguistic Anthropology.