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, 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

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My internship experience at START wasn’t exactly what I anticipated. As the sole communications intern, I expected to be somewhat on the fringes, and to write about whatever was assigned to me with minimal involvement in the day-to-day operations of the Consortium. Instead, I was involved in several experiences that gave me insight into START’s mission and its work in terrorism research.  Previously, my only perspective on terrorism came from reading the news and watching “Homeland.” After attending several lectures, research roundtables and career profile sessions, I have learned about terrorism from some leading experts on the subject. The best part is that I was able to write about it all.

One of my major takeaways from this internship is my improved ability to work with others, whether it is students or researchers, to get their stories published. In public relations, you are never working with your own time; it is always that of others. I have learned to use this to my... read entire post

Friday, December 20, 2013

As a member of the advanced research team, my primary job responsibility involves testing new ideas to determine whether they possess the potential to blossom into full-blown, fundable research projects.  This job usually involves a three-step process to determine if we can complete this research project or if we should find a new avenue of exploration to solve a more novel research question.

The three-step process is as follows:

Researching information for a general idea online. If enough sources exist to conduct a proper literature review, there is a good chance the project will advance to the next stage; if too few sources are available, we  likely cannot currently begin a full research project.
In these instances, we then concentrate our efforts  on identifying what the intermediate steps look like and how we might fill that void through our research efforts. 
  Identify the feasibility of answering the research question. For example, answering the... read entire post
Friday, December 20, 2013

My internship is with the Individual Radicalization project. We work on developing a database of homegrown radicals in North America who follow far right, far left, or jihadist ideologies. Most of the time, I work on adding individuals into that database, looking up information about their lives online and deciding whether or not they meet our criteria. We also look into general radicalization trends, so my work involves looking into other radicalization research, either searching for information online or going to lectures in Washington, D.C. By adding to the field of radicalization research and providing a comprehensive database of extremists radicalized in North America, this project will help others in the field analyze trajectories of radicalization, learning more about the process by which people become extremists.

I have really enjoyed this research because I love the inherent complexity of social science research. Our jobs involve categorizing people so that we can... read entire post

Friday, December 20, 2013

When I came to the University of Maryland in fall 2010, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. In high school I was a good student, but wasn’t truly passionate about any one subject. I entered UMD as a Letters and Sciences student, meaning I hadn’t decided on a major, and declared my government and politics (GVPT) major in spring 2011. After researching the different departments and taking a wide range of course topics, I figured that GVPT would be a good fit.

I began taking classes about international relations and the Middle East, and I realized that all I was interested in was conflict, particularly terrorism. I’m from New York, and I remember 9/11 very well. In spring 2012, I applied for the Global Terrorism Minor program through START. It was the best decision I’ve made at UMD. I have found my passion in life, and I couldn’t imagine spending my semesters taking a different course load.

Although I finally found my niche, my parents, family and friends... read entire post

Friday, December 20, 2013

Over the course of my GIS Analysis internship with START, I have had the chance to develop a variety of skills in GIS and deeply engage myself in a number of START’s projects such as the EuroArch project and the TCOTRN project. Both projects are of particular interest to me as they are breaking new ground by using GIS for predictive analysis. This means we can attach the significance of real-world data into a GIS data model and use the data to predict which potential smuggling routes a criminal group may use as opposed to another route.  

Common GIS research might entail collecting data about attacks that have occurred and simply mapping and reporting where they occurred.  When we apply GIS to analyze why the groups attacked these particular targets, we can better predict where future terrorist attacks might take place.  GIS analysis attempts to identify the following about a target to help determine why they were attacked:

The target’s vulnerability, The target’s... read entire post


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