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

A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

START internship creates career path


START internship creates career path

Naval Research Laboratory grants unique opportunities for students

February 28, 2013
With a quick click of the mouse, Jesse Thrift changed the course of his professional life while he was still an undergraduate at the University of Maryland. He had casually signed up for the START mailing list because he was interested in the terrorism studies minor and studying radiological/nuclear (RN) terrorism. He pursued the unpaid internship with START, which eventually led to an internship with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), where Thrift now works as a research assistant. The START/NRL internship program began last summer, after NRL's Nathan Meehan followed up on a tip from a colleague and approached START about finding an intern.
"START has a great reputation in the criminological and counterterrorism community for the quality of its research," Meehan said.
"So when I needed an intern, I wasn't surprised to learn that START also had an excellent internship program. I haven't been disappointed. It has been a pleasure to work with START interns. It's amazing what the students can do."
The collaboration with the NRL has grown. What began as a cohort of one has transformed into a cohort of five students this semester. Meehan said the growth has been fueled by both an increased amount of work and the quality of the START interns he has worked with.
"I set out trying to find good, highly skilled people," Meehan said.
"The START interns I've worked with have already been trained in a variety of ways in which I need them to work. They hit the ground running, tap into the skillset they've developed through START and produce very high quality work."

Thrift was one of Meehan's unpaid interns on a team that conducts research on different criminological and sociological projects for various government agencies. "We START interns had desks in the same area as Dr. Meehan," Thrift said.

"There was a lot of opportunity for cross-talk and interaction, so the internship was more than just sitting at a desk and working in silence all day-- there was a lot of camaraderie."

The collegial environment allowed Thrift and his fellow interns to get firsthand exposure to various real-world research projects and trainings.

"What I'm learning here will help very directly in a professional capacity, whether I join the Coast Guard or work in the intelligence community or conduct research," Thrift said.

"Our office has brought in people who provide training to law enforcement so I've gotten to see how research can inform and cross over into a practical law enforcement environment."

Meehan said with this internship program, he hopes to give students opportunities that will help them build their resumes so that they can find jobs and flourish as professionals.

"I want to help open doors for them, it can be really hard to break into the criminal justice and national security work for the government, especially when you are young," Meehan said.

"Through an internship with our team at the NRL, students go through an official background check and work at a Department of Defense facility. They will of course also receive a comprehensive educational experience, but those are powerful bullet points to include in a resume."


Meehan will offer an Information session on the NRL Internship later this semester at START Headquarters (UMD's Route 1 Annex at 8400 Baltimore Ave, Suite 250). To RSVP or to learn more, contact education@start.umd.edu. If you are a government agency or organization interested in setting up an internship program, contact sfishering@start.umd.edu.