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.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

When I applied to the Government and Politics program at the University of Maryland, I did not know which of the paths within the major I would follow. My interest in terrorism, however, emerged early in my college career after participating in a program called Destination London.

The study abroad program, offered only to incoming freshman, greatly expanded my perspective on the world. While abroad I attended a student Peace Conference in Northern Ireland, and for the first time, I experienced a region torn by terrorism. I realized how interested I was in conflict after witnessing the long-term effects terrorism can have on cultures and lifestyles.

My second direct experience with terrorism came during my semester abroad last spring in San Sebastian, a metropolitan city in the Basque Country of Northern Spain. Again, similar to my time in Northern Ireland, I was in a region torn from a history of nationalist terrorism. During the semester I took a class on terrorism... read entire post

Monday, December 1, 2014

My first task as an intern on the Nuclear Security and Detection Project at START was to memorize what “START” actually stood for, which was, admittedly, rather difficult. My experience since then has only grown more rewarding. I have learned so much through on-the-job tasks, and START’s energetic atmosphere makes it a joy to come into work.

Regarding the content of my project, I have learned a great deal of information, some of it nerve-wracking, about nuclear detection architecture, drug smuggling, human trafficking, terrorism, and the international organizations meant to control these things. And that’s just the beginning.

 I have also learned a slew of practical skills, such as navigating Excel data sheets. I’ve improved my research skills with new websites and databases that contain information not included in the official documents assigned to me. I will be able to use these databases for current and future research purposes.

The staff at START are... read entire post

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I had no idea what to expect when I walked into START on my first day. There was a tangible buzz of energy and I watched groups of interns working intently at their desks; I wondered if I would enjoy the work as much as they did. I settled down in front of my dual monitors and began a series of internships that grew into my most enjoyable and rewarding professional experience to date.

Prior to START, my background consisted of experiences in the political, legal, and immigration fields, with little exposure to terrorism research or counterterrorism studies. In May 2012, I graduated from The George Washington University with a B.A. in Political Science.

Two years later, I graduated from American University’s School of Public Affairs with a M.S. in Justice, Law and Criminology and a concentration in Terrorism and Security Policy. While at American University, I learned about the internship program at START through a lecture given by START’s Internship... read entire post

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I remember one of my first airshows as a kid, watching the Navy’s renowned Blue Angels. The squadron has some of the best combat pilots in the world assembled into an elite aero-acrobatics team. In my Blue Angels jumpsuit, I’d salute the service members as they passed. Sure, my salutes totally lacked proper form, but it was worth a shot. To my 5 year-old self, being a pilot was all I wanted in the world.

As I grew older, I rethought my combat pilot career path. It entailed frantic decision-making, strategic bombing runs, surveillance and a high amount of risk. Though I decided the skies were not meant for me, I never forgot my love and respect for the military and its members. That’s why I’ve dedicated my time and effort to joining the world of counterterrorism. I want to help save lives and allow people to enjoy freedom without the fear of tyranny and terror.

This fall, my dream of working to understand and help mitigate global conflict was realized. I joined START... read entire post

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A few years back, if you had told me that I’d someday work at a terrorism research center, I probably would have laughed. How did a person with B.S. in Biology end up studying terrorism? I guess you could say that I didn’t find terrorism— terrorism found me.

The senior year of my undergraduate career, I focused on two things. The first was graduate school. The second was studying Parkinson’s disease using the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans. Yep, that’s right, I was trying to solve the mystery of Parkinson’s in humans using a tiny, microscopic worm.

But back to the graduate program. I always had an interest in law enforcement and emergency management, but I didn’t think I would be able to combine that with my love of science. The Biodefense Graduate Program at George Mason University (GMU) seemed to be the answer to that problem. I applied to a handful of programs that year, but I had received more rejection letters than acceptance letters that February... read entire post

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

This summer I had the opportunity to work with START’s Big, Allied, and Dangerous (BAAD)  project. Throughout the internship, I used news articles, government publications, NGO research, and other reliable sources to compile comprehensive profiles about terrorist groups around the globe.

Some groups I researched were rather small, such as M23, while others were larger and more influential, like the Taliban. The profiles were intended to provide a complete snapshot of the group. I found information on their leaders, hierarchy, financing, supporters, locations, size, attacks, state sponsors, and nearly anything else you could possibly want to know about these groups.

I am particularly interested in Sub-Saharan Africa and had the chance to research a couple of groups still active in the region. It was rather shocking to hear about the violence and unrest still plaguing such areas.

Conflict in Africa is not new, but I was shocked to find how violent the conflict is... read entire post

Monday, August 25, 2014

As I spoke with my colleagues in the Health Services Administration Department at the University of Maryland about our internships, I found most them would be joining typical public health organizations, such as Johns Hopkins, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), or the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  However, my internship appointment was not as expected; I would be interning at START, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. 

At first glance, applying health services administration to terrorism and disasters does not seem like an easy translation.  However, in the aftermath of most crises, impacted persons need emergency health services, and public health professionals coordinate appropriate responses for victims. Public health professionals need to communicate with various stakeholders, including government agencies, private businesses, healthcare organizations, and the general public. Working at START this summer... read entire post

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My name is Jacob Schwoerer, and I was an intern in the Special Projects Division at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.S. in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies, and Certificates of Modern Standard and Media Arabic from the Arabic Language Institute in Fez, Morocco. I primarily work on START’s Open Source Intelligence Europe and Africa: Project on Illicit Trafficking team. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I first heard of START and its research during a lecture on terrorism and counterterrorism efforts. START’s concept captivated me, and shortly thereafter, I applied for an internship. I interviewed for the position, received an offer, and found myself traveling across the country for my START orientation.

When I walked into the office on that first day, I had no idea what to expect… although I was confident that it would boost my credentials to... read entire post

Monday, August 4, 2014

I am an anthropologist. The nice thing and absolutely frustrating thing about this statement is that as an anthropologist I am trained to assess problems and issues from the perspective that everything is connected and nothing is truly independent. Within anthropology systems theory, or systems thinking, is the perspective that all variables or elements of the system exist within relation to one another and therefore cannot be understood alone.[1] Thinking about issues and problems, like those faced by social scientists studying disaster and resiliency, and finding solutions, can get really complicated really fast. However, throughout the course of my internship at START, I have learned it doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelming.

I am a disaster anthropologist. Therefore, when I look at risk interpretation and decision-making during a disaster, I need to consider the social, political, economic, etc., dynamics of the system. For example, in order to even begin to... read entire post

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

As floodwaters poured into Boulder, Colo. homes last September, it was crucial that risk communications reached everyone in the area as quickly as possible. Risk communication can be challenging even if targeted audiences are from similar backgrounds and speak the same language. Delivering a message to recent immigrants who may not speak fluent English or know the customs of an area complicates communication and compromises their safety. Here at START, we are working towards better understanding risk communication, specifically communication targeting hard-to-reach groups.

Prior to my internship at START, I did not know what inhibited vulnerable populations from receiving help in disaster situations.  As a Risk Communication and Community Resilience intern, I assisted in refining a survey that explores how risk communications functioned during the recent Boulder flood. I also interviewed flood victims about how they received safety information during the disaster, which... read entire post


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