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

Collaboration with State Department puts START student research to use


Collaboration with State Department puts START student research to use

December 15, 2017Lindsay Sanderson

A team of START students recently completed a unique suite of projects in support of the U.S. Department of State. Supervised by START staff and project leads at the State Department, the students were tasked with developing materials to further training efforts of the Bureau of Counterterrorism and create exercises with realistic scenarios based on extensive research on history and geopolitical situations.

Being based at START headquarters provided not only an ideal location for students, but additional access to experts, data, training and professional development opportunities.

“The State-START internship was a perfect middle ground for me; I had the convenience of having an internship that is so close to campus while still gaining access to D.C. resources and personnel,” said Emily Marks, fall 2017 intern and University of Maryland junior. “This internship has given me the chance to combine my interest in the study of terrorism with my interest in creative writing.”

START and the State Department work together to recruit and select smart, hard-working students with excellent writing skills and creativity to take on this special project.

Sarah Fishering, START’s research transition manager who launched the program five years ago, said “Our State Department partners have gained useful research pieces and had the opportunity to work with students - which in itself is very rewarding and fulfilling. It has given them the opportunity to lend a helping hand in the training and development of the next generation of practitioners, policymakers and academics in the field of terrorism and counterterrorism.”

Using START data, such as the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) and other open sources, the students familiarized themselves with terrorist group motives, tactics and weapons used, and analyzed trends and group capacity. Doing this research to support the State Department’s project provided an extra incentive for the students, and a real world context.

“It did not feel like we were doing research and writing simply to gain college credits and learn about terrorism and counterterrorism,” Marks said. “I knew that my work would be put to concrete use by our federal government in the future.”

The State-START internship opportunity is offered each semester. START’s spring intern cohort has been selected. The next opportunity will be available for summer 2018, with the application due in February.