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

START fosters a collaborative, multidisciplinary environment to create a team to meet the needs of the homeland security enterprise and train the next generation of scholars and practitioners. 

Hydra Project

Hydra Project

June 30, 2017
Semester Year: 


START is currently evaluating the post-ISIL landscape of violent extremist organizations and other armed groups in Iraq and Syria. Specifically, we are attempting to identify both potential threats and partners. We are therefore interested in the groups’ ideology, martial capabilities and alliances, among other factors. This research is being undertaken as a Strategic Multi-layer Assessment (SMA) initiative in support of the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM). The project is an outgrowth of START’s long-standing relationship with the Department of Defense’s SMA office, which brings together a global network scholars and area experts from across various U.S. government agencies and beyond, including academic institutions, research organizations and policy centers.

The first phase of the project seeks to provide the Command with a comprehensive and current survey of the operational armed groups in Syria and Iraq at a fairly high level of disaggregation. This task is complicated by the poor quality of information being transmitted out of conflict zones, especially in Syria. As such, we must piece together the highly-fragmented information available on individual groups from a wide variety of resources to produce more comprehensive profiles than exist in the open-source realm thus far. A large amount of information will come from Arabic language online media sources, including news articles, social media, websites and blogs.

Supervisor: Rachel Gabriel (rgabriel@umd.edu)

Deadline: Friday, June 30, 2017.

Citizenship Requirement: None

Team Meeting Times: TBD

Work Location: START HQ located at 8400 Baltimore Ave., College Park, MD 20740. All internship hours must be completed at START HQ, unless otherwise specified. Working remotely is not permitted.

Duties of the interns will include:

The primary tasks for interns will be to participate in primary research including:

  • Monitoring Arabic language online media sources for information on major events, group ideologies, activities, coalitions, military alliances, kinetic and non-kinetic operations and changes in territorial control among other variables
  • Event research to inform data capture, for example, identifying seeds, keywords, or tokens for gathering social media data


  • Arabic language proficiency (including reading and writing)
  • Knowledge of the MENA region and the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq
  • Proficiency in Excel

Other Suggested Skills:

  • Familiarity in the fields of international relations or political science
  • A strong interest in research or social media analysis

General Information for all START Internships


START Headquarters is located at 8400 Baltimore Avenue, College Park, MD 20740. The building is adjacent to the University of Maryland, College Park campus. All internship hours must be completed at START HQ unless otherwise specified. Working remotely is not permitted.

Schedule Requirements:

  • Orientation Date: Friday, August 25, 2017. All interns are required to attend orientation. You may be required to attend an additional day of orientation on Thursday, August 24, 2017. Your supervisor will inform you if you are required to attend both days.
  • Internship Duration: Monday, August 28, 2017 to Monday, December 11, 2017. All interns must be able to commit to the duration of the whole program.
  • Work Hours: All interns must work at least 10 hours per week during the Fall 2017 program. Work hours are scheduled from Monday to Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm. Interns may not work longer than 8 hour shifts.

Other Information:

  • All internships are UNPAID and START is unable to provide travel stipends or housing arrangements.
  • We strongly encourage and recommend that interns seek academic credit for their internship through their home institution or department, if possible.
  • If undertaking the internship for credit, you must indicate this in your application form. Be sure to notify your internship supervisor if you need to work more than 20 hours per work for this reason.
  • Applicants interested in applying for an internship for any semester other than or in addition to Fall 2017, must submit a separate application for each semester with the correct application form for that semester.

How to Apply for START Internships:

START is currently accepting applications for Fall 2017. The application form will be open until Friday, June 30, 2017 11:59pm. Late, incomplete, or applications not submitted correctly will not be considered.To access the application: click here.


  • Applicants must pay close attention to the requirements of each internship they are applying for, including attendance to team meetings and minimum time commitment. Inability to attend compulsory meetings or work the minimum required hours will result in the revocation of any offer made.
  • Address your cover letter to the internship supervisor of your first choice project.
  • Failure to complete the application form in full, including the selection of 1-3 internship preferences could result in your application being rejected without further consideration.
  • Failure to submit the proper materials according to the directions provided in the project description could result in your application being rejected without further consideration.
  • Due to the high volume of applicants, only top candidates selected for an interview will be contacted.
  • Applicants may be asked to attend more than one interview.
  • Any successful candidate will be asked to respond with a firm acceptance within 24 hours of the offer being made. Failure to respond could result in the vacancy passed to another candidate.
  • Any questions regarding the specific requirements for the internship vacancy should be directed to the supervisor(s) listed for the project.
  • Any questions regarding the application process should be directed to the START Education Team at internships-start@umd.edu.


Application Materials:

All internship applicants must submit all materials in one .pdf file using the file name format:

LastName, FirstName_InternCandidate.pdf or .doc.

 The internship application packet should include the following documents in the following order:

  • One page cover letter
  • One page resume
  • Official or unofficial transcript(s)
  • Two-page writing sample (Communications applicants must submit two writing samples.)

Note for International Students:

START welcomes applications from international students for all of our internships where US citizenship is not a requirement (see the qualifications listed for each project for details).

It is, however, the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that their visa or immigration status permits them to undertake an unpaid internship. It is also the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that all proper paperwork, like documented approval from your home institution, is available and processed in time for the start of the internship. Failure to comply with these stipulations, or provide the paperwork required to verify your status, will result in your internship offer being rescinded without further consideration. START is unable to sponsor visas for non-US Citizens due to the short timeline of our program and the lengthy processing time for visas. Unfortunately, this largely limits our ability to accept anything other than F-1 visas on regular, not OPT, status.