July 3, 2012
Naval Research Lab scientist offers career advice
BY MARY BECK
“If you’re really interested in something, pursue it as much as you can; you’ll get into it one way or another.”
This is the message that Nathan Meehan wanted to instill in the 20 interns who attended START’s June Career Profile Event.
Meehan’s experience serves as a testimony to his own advice. His graduate school thesis began with a conversation in a bar in Cape Town, South Africa, after he found out how the prevalence of HIV in parts of Africa affected police forces. He then set out to research how HIV affects the ability of a police organization to function.
This was no easy task, and Meehan’s graduate school encouraged him to find an easier subject to research. Despite the drawbacks, Meehan stuck with his thesis and received his doctorate. He is now a social scientist for the Adversarial Modeling and Exploitation Office at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.
“Don’t worry about going down the common path set for you,” he told the interns, saying that he wished he’d known that in graduate school.
He peppered his talk with other nuggets of wisdom, such as “Your [graduate school] thesis is not the first, last or defining part of your career” and “Open your eyes and close your mouth.” He also told stories from his experiences with police officers in New York, noting that experience in the field is something that no criminology textbook could ever teach someone. He ended with a question and answer session.
Brianne Wain, a Global Terrorism Database intern, appreciated the opportunity to meet Meehan.
“I thought it was interesting,” she said. “I think it’s helpful to hear people talk about their practical and real experiences.”