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, 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
Friday, December 20, 2013

“So basically I’m a mini Jack Bauer, but behind a desk.”

That is how I explained my summer internship at START to my mom. I was so excited to have found my “summer-employment home;” I couldn’t help but be a little overzealous in the description. While I myself am not racing around the world taking down terrorists, the research team I am aiding this summer makes these kinds of missions possible. Without the analyzed intelligence and data START provides, the government could not draft missions with complete comprehension of current global situations nor with full confidence that they are executing the best course of action. START analyzes everything from the methods regarding how terrorists gain access to weaponizable materials to the effectiveness of counterterrorism tactics. My specific team, the PIRUS project (Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States), studies extremist individuals who adopted their radical beliefs within the United States. With our... read entire post

Friday, December 20, 2013

This summer I had the opportunity to work on an exciting data visualization project using data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). During this process, I got a chance to create a web-based application that allows users to view terrorist activity in various countries.  Working on this project gave me valuable practical experience in my field of study; I was able to apply fundamentals learned in the classroom to actual world issues.  This process has allowed me to improve my computer programming skills using languages such as Javascript, HTML and CSS.  I am happy that my supervisor and the other staff at START allowed me to be as creative as possible with the design of the project.  Other pluses included meeting and talking with other interns from other schools and some from other countries.  I learned a great deal and can now take what I have learned and teach someone else. 


In furtherance of its educational and professional development mission, START... read entire post

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism (START) has provided me with a great opportunity to further develop my GIS skills. Although the University of Maryland maintains the third best Geographical Sciences department in the nation, working with START in particular has helped me to understand the variety of ways in which we can use geospatial analysis.

In my time as a GIS intern, I have conducted extensive open source research on a variety of global terrorism issues. Every day presents me with a new challenge that helps me to understand and build my knowledge of how to utilize geospatial analysis. The projects GIS interns are engaged in play a big role in local government agencies’ planning strategies that help to prevent the United States from falling victim to future terrorist attacks. We investigate open source data collected from thousands of international organizations, and using GIS software are able to analyze a variety of trends... read entire post


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