A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus 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. 

Biosecurity Threats to Central and South Americas – Spring 2021

Biosecurity Threats to Central and South Americas – Spring 2021

November 8, 2020
Semester Year: 


Designed for highly motivated, high-performing students, the Unconventional Weapons & Technology Division (UWT) anticipates having openings for up to five internship positions to support this project.

In an ever more connected global economy in which movement of persons, goods and agricultural products across borders and between economic and ecological regions occurs at a constantly accelerating pace, questions of biosecurity and biosafety become increasingly important for policymakers. The effects of these developments are further exacerbated by the pressures associated with rapid advances in the growing fields of biological sciences and bioengineering.

START/UWT has been tasked with researching biosecurity threats and capabilities in the Western Hemisphere, specifically Central and South America, and the Caribbean, in order to support an Organization of American States (OAS) effort to improve awareness and capabilities amongst its member states. Findings from the research effort will be used to inform regional and national leaders and policy makers of the importance of biosecurity and biosafety, to include agriculture and food security and safety, as well as the landscape of biosecurity threats (e.g., naturally occurring outbreaks, accidental, or intentional release of or misuse of biological materials, insider-threats, lack of physical security of biological materials and related facilities/laboratories) facing OAS member states.

Spring 2021 START/UWT interns will be directly contributing to this effort by identifying, collecting and interrogating international and national source materials, working closely with START/UWT research staff to identify strengths and vulnerabilities in each of the countries of interest. 
While we do intend to offer this project for the spring 2021 semester, it is contingent upon confirmation of funding by the start date of the spring internship (January 21st).
Supervisor: Mr. Markus K. Binder (mkbinder@umd.edu) Ms. Alexandra Williams (awilli2@umd.edu)
Deadline: Sunday, November 8, 2020
US Citizenship Required: No
Team Meeting Times: TBD 

Required/Minimum Qualifications:

Passion and an inherent capacity to learn and adapt quickly are more important than existing knowledge / skills, but the following are the minimum requirements:

  • Strong research background through coursework or internship/jobs
  • Open source research skills
  • Background in global health security, CBRN, issues
  • Experience authoring and/or assisting with authoring a detailed literature review for the purposes of hypotheses generation and variable extraction
  • Flexibility and ability to multitask
  • Ability to improvise and think on their feet to identify and implement new research approaches and directions at need
  • Superior writing skills

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Ability to read and translate Spanish into English highly desirable.
  • Background in biodefense, biosecurity, biosafety, CBRN issues, global health security, (academic and/or technical experience* (*at least 1yr)
  • Graduate students or extremely qualified undergraduates are strongly preferred
  • Background in Latin American politics, health, and sociology a plus
  • Experience in coding qualitative data a plus

General Information for all START Internships


START Headquarters is located in the Discovery District in College Park, MD, however given the COVID-19 pandemic, START is currently planning to offer our spring internship program remotely pending further guidance from the University of Maryland. You can find the most up-to-date information that UMD offers on COVID-19 and campus operations at this link: https://umd.edu/virusinfo. 

Schedule Requirements:

Orientation Date: Thursday, January 21st, 2021. All interns are required to attend orientation. You may be required to attend an additional day of orientation on Friday, January 22nd, 2021. Your supervisor will inform you if you are required to attend both days.
Internship Duration: Thursday, January 21st, 2021 to Friday, May 7th, 2021. 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 spring 2021 program. Work hours are scheduled from Monday to Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm. Interns may not work longer than 8-hour or shorter than 2 hour shifts.

Other Information:

  • All internships are UNPAID and START is unable to provide travel stipends or housing arrangements. However, the University of Maryland has several opportunities for students to apply for unpaid internship stipends. Please note START is not involved in the application or review process for these stipends.
  • 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 on your application form. Be sure to notify your internship supervisor if you need to work more than 10 hours per work for this reason.
  • Applicants interested in applying for an internship for any semester other than or in addition to spring 2021, 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 the spring 2021 semester. Please make sure you check the dates for the projects you’re interested in to make sure they’re available during the semester you intend to apply. The spring 2021 application form will be open until 11:59pm on Sunday, November 8th, 2020. However, some projects for the spring semester require the application be submitted by the priority deadline (Sunday, October 25th at 11:59pm) so please be sure to note the deadlines in the project descriptions. 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 48 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.