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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

When I began my internship in the summer of 2014, I experienced the normal jitters and apprehension that most people encounter embarking on a new career opportunity, but I never could have predicted just how rewarding this opportunity would be. Two years before I came to START, I earned my Master’s Degree in Biodefense from George Mason University. There, I focused on the proliferation of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) technologies, with a special focus on illicit biological and chemical weapons programs.

I can still remember the day my advisor, Markus Binder, called to offer me an internship working as a Senior Database Technician on the Profiles of Incidents Involving CBRN Use by Non-state Actors (POICN) Database. Since that day, I have been surrounded by positivity, validation and empowerment at START.

Working with Markus and Matt Burger, another Research Assistant, on the POICN Database has been challenging, educational and ineffably... read entire post

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I first became interested in START in February 2014 after discussing Dr. Gary LaFree’s lecture, “Black Swans and Burstiness: Countering Myths about Terrorism” in my Deterring Terrorism class at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). After hearing Gary speak, I knew that interning at START was something I wanted to pursue, and so far, the experience has been well worth it.

I am currently a political science major at UMBC expected to graduate in May 2017, and an intern on the Dataverse team under the supervision of Michael Distler. As one of the two Dataverse Assistant Editors this semester, I am responsible for archiving data and preparing it to be uploaded onto the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) for dissemination to the public. Using software such as the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Word, I edit data in order to create codebooks and metadata. This semester, I am focusing on a project analyzing a study of... read entire post

Friday, January 9, 2015

Interning at START has been a refreshing and enriching experience – unique from any of my past internships.  While the workdays of other interns are often monotonously spent in a copy room, START takes full advantage of its wealth of exceptional interns and engages them through innovative projects and opportunities.

I began my internship with an eagerness to start my work on the Risk Communication team and challenge myself in a field to which I had little exposure. As a government and politics major, I have always had a particular interest in the science of human behavior, yet knew little about the qualitative depths of risk communication and resilience.  

During my first meeting with my program manager Holly Roberts, I voiced my desire to be engaged in the data analysis process of our department’s research ventures. Despite having extensive research experience from past internships, this was my first opportunity to really sink my teeth into any substantive analysis... read entire post

Thursday, January 8, 2015

As the 2014 spring semester wound down, I found myself considering where I would intern in the fall. Luckily, I was taking Complex Organizational Communication, a course at the University of Maryland with Dr. Elizabeth Petrun. In addition to Dr. Petrun being a professor at the University of Maryland, she is also the associate director of the Risk Communication and Resilience program at START. At her urging I decided to apply for a risk communication internship and now, here I am!

As a junior public relations student, I am only beginning to build a foundation of experience for my future career. Prior to this, I had interned at a local newspaper, but my risk communication internship was my first experience in a professional, research-focused institution.

When I first started, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was daunting to know that the work done here is for funders who are typically government entities. However, the overall culture at START helped to alleviate some of... read entire post

Monday, December 15, 2014

During the summer of 2014, I began an exciting and profoundly rewarding chapter of my studies. I began working at START as an Intern in the Special Projects Division.

I first learned about the organization through my brother, as he interned with START several years ago. After hearing nothing but positive things from him, I thought I would give a shot at pursuing terrorism studies. I applied and was hired as an intern for the summer.  

I began working on the Failure Points in Smuggling Networks Project under Brandon Behlendorf and Michelle Jacome.  The project analyzes strategic and multiplex relationships of actors within smuggling networks in order to identify potential points of failure.  I was primarily assisting in the data collection efforts for seven smuggling networks across the world.

My educational and professional background helped me get selected for the position as an intern at START. I studied Criminology at Howard Community College. There, I found... read entire post

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

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