A Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

In training the next generation of scholars and practitioners, START offers its students a chance to publish their work on this blog.

Latest Intern Blog Posts


Latest Intern Blog Posts

In furtherance of its educational and professional development mission, START invites its students to write about their research experiences with the Consortium. Their work is featured on this START Student Blog. START students interested in blogging should contact Jessica Rivinius at rivinius@start.umd.edu.

The posts within this blog represent the opinions of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of START or any office or agency of the United States Government.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Movies like Live Free or Die Hard or Blackhat depict the world of cybercrime as one in which basement-dwelling geniuses can turn the world’s machines into their plaything with the click of a mouse or a few taps of the keyboard. As much as an invisible, unpredictable threat shutting down America’s power grid in the blink of an eye makes for good cinema, the vast majority of damage caused by cybercrime or cyberterrorism is far more mundane.

In general, the average hacker is seeking to steal money or data from the company, and rather than a criminal mastermind hiding out in a hidden fortress somewhere, the most common threat to corporate data comes from its own employees, known as “insiders.”

I am a Public Policy MA student focusing on International Security Policy here at Maryland, and this summer, before completing my master’s, I am working with the Behavioral Indicators of Insider Threats project at START.

But who are insiders? The technical... read entire post

Monday, July 6, 2015

This May, I graduated from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA as a double major in corporate communications and political science. Throughout my undergraduate career, I had taken an array of political science coursework, but I couldn’t decide which area interested me the most— until I signed up for a terrorism studies course in the fall of my senior year.

The class was a game-changer. I was enthralled with the material and eager to learn more. I was especially interested in the social and political causes that led individuals to commit acts of terror. It was during that semester that I decided to pursue a career in counterterrorism.

My final semester of college, I was not ready to stop learning about terrorism. I wanted to do something that would allow me to continue researching what I had become so passionate about. I heard about START through a family friend and applied to the summer internship program immediately.

This summer, I’ll be working on the... read entire post

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

I am a Government and Politics major at the University of Maryland and a member of the Big Ten Cross-Country and Track & Field teams. I first found out about START in the fall of my sophomore year, when an advisor suggested that I add a minor.

After doing some research, I discovered START’s global terrorism minor. I was also interested in taking START’s States of Emergency course (BSST334) with Dr. Izsak, but it didn’t fit into my schedule until spring 2015. I enrolled in the class and it quickly became one of my favorites. I realized that I might want to work in the field someday, so I applied for the global terrorism minor, which I was recently accepted to.

I wanted to jumpstart my understanding of the terrorism research field as early as possible and a summer internship with START seemed like the perfect opportunity for a hands-on experience.

My internship has only just begun, but since day one I have enjoyed the atmosphere at START. The staff and... read entire post

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Entering my second semester at the University of Maryland I enrolled in a class titled FIRE154: Risk Communication and Resilience. The only thing I knew about the class was that it was a part of the First Year Innovation and Research Experience (FIRE) program at the university and I would get to spend eight hours a week in START’s research lab. What I did not know is that this class would help me find my passion and push me toward a career path I never knew existed in counterterrorism and homeland security.

Before I began my research at START, I doubted that I would be able to handle the weekly hour and work requirements necessary to succeed in the course, but the first day of class I met START Research Educator and FIRE154 instructor Mike Egnoto. His excitement about the FIRE program inspired me to stay the course. Throughout the experience, he was instrumental in helping me develop passion for my research with START.

On the Risk Communication and Resilience (RCR)... read entire post

Thursday, May 21, 2015

“How was I fortunate enough to end up here?” is a question I often ask myself as I enter START’s facilities and walk down the aisle of offices that leads to my workspace. How did I, a second semester freshman, end up rubbing shoulders with some of the brightest people in the area doing real government-funded research on terrorism and responses to terrorism?

The answer is simple: I signed up for FIRE, the First year Innovation and Research Experience program, at freshman orientation last summer and it was the best decision I made during my short time as a UMD student. FIRE gave me the option of choosing which research track I wanted to go into, and without a second thought, I chose the Risk Communication and Resilience stream, which gave me the opportunity to work at START.

After meeting with Brooke Liu,  Associate Professor of Communication and Director of the Risk Communication and Resilience Program at START, I was sure I had made a great decision. Her research on... read entire post

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Miles for Smiles won $7,500 at this year’s University of Maryland Do Good Challenge.

What a strange way to start a blog, right? You’re probably brimming with questions: “Who are you? What does this have to do with START? What is the Do Good Challenge?” and “What is Miles for Smiles?” I will do my best to answer these questions, but forgive me if I ramble. If you make it to the end of this explanation, you have my word that you’ll be inspired to do a little good in your own life.

Who are you?

My entire life I have known that I would be an active member of the global community and contribute to its development whenever possible. This commitment to my international brothers and sisters has manifested in many ways, but most notably in my time working with START.

I first learned about START as a first-semester junior, one of my classmates discussed her internship here and I was hooked. Always a planner, I sat down with my calendar and wrote out a schedule... read entire post

Thursday, April 9, 2015

“So, what is a medical student doing studying radicalization at START?” I have answered this question many times in conversations with my colleagues at START and throughout my medical studies at hospitals. But there is no simple answer; the path I took to get here was unlikely.

In my third year of medical school at Georgetown University, I decided to enroll in a Master of Science program studying Biohazardous Threat Agents to pursue my interest in the intersections between health and security. As I learned more about weapons of mass destruction, the sociological theories of terrorism and national security policy, my curiosity for these topics only grew.

My introduction to START occurred during a class on bioterrorism at Georgetown. My professor used data from the Global Terrorism Database to demonstrate the prevalence of terrorism in the world today. After further independent research, I discovered that START would provide me with the opportunity I had been searching... read entire post

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

When I began my internship in the summer of 2014, I experienced the normal jitters and apprehension that most people encounter embarking on a new career opportunity, but I never could have predicted just how rewarding this opportunity would be. Two years before I came to START, I earned my Master’s Degree in Biodefense from George Mason University. There, I focused on the proliferation of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) technologies, with a special focus on illicit biological and chemical weapons programs.

I can still remember the day my advisor, Markus Binder, called to offer me an internship working as a Senior Database Technician on the Profiles of Incidents Involving CBRN Use by Non-state Actors (POICN) Database. Since that day, I have been surrounded by positivity, validation and empowerment at START.

Working with Markus and Matt Burger, another Research Assistant, on the POICN Database has been challenging, educational and ineffably... read entire post

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I first became interested in START in February 2014 after discussing Dr. Gary LaFree’s lecture, “Black Swans and Burstiness: Countering Myths about Terrorism” in my Deterring Terrorism class at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). After hearing Gary speak, I knew that interning at START was something I wanted to pursue, and so far, the experience has been well worth it.

I am currently a political science major at UMBC expected to graduate in May 2017, and an intern on the Dataverse team under the supervision of Michael Distler. As one of the two Dataverse Assistant Editors this semester, I am responsible for archiving data and preparing it to be uploaded onto the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) for dissemination to the public. Using software such as the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Word, I edit data in order to create codebooks and metadata. This semester, I am focusing on a project analyzing a study of... read entire post

Friday, January 9, 2015

Interning at START has been a refreshing and enriching experience – unique from any of my past internships.  While the workdays of other interns are often monotonously spent in a copy room, START takes full advantage of its wealth of exceptional interns and engages them through innovative projects and opportunities.

I began my internship with an eagerness to start my work on the Risk Communication team and challenge myself in a field to which I had little exposure. As a government and politics major, I have always had a particular interest in the science of human behavior, yet knew little about the qualitative depths of risk communication and resilience.  

During my first meeting with my program manager Holly Roberts, I voiced my desire to be engaged in the data analysis process of our department’s research ventures. Despite having extensive research experience from past internships, this was my first opportunity to really sink my teeth into any substantive analysis... read entire post

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