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

PIRUS intern’s sights are set on Washington

Sarah Martin, a START intern, grew up in a military family. Her mother and father both serve in the U.S. Air Force. Since Martin can remember, her parents have instilled a sense of legacy in her. They always emphasized that her military service would be a link in her family’s long chain of sacrifice and service to the United States.

Martin has lived across the country, bouncing from California, Texas, Colorado and Hawaii. After studying in the United States Air Force Academy and American University for her undergraduate, Martin found herself in College Park, Maryland, working on START’s PIRUS project.

The Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the U.S. (PIRUS) project at START has one main goal: to dramatically advance the empirical basis for understanding domestic radicalization. Martin, a START intern on the PIRUS project, helps solve this complex challenge by applying her diverse skillset.

Martin attended American University, studying Business Administration with a minor in Russian Language and Culture. She credits a business intelligence class with sparking her interest in analyzing, coding and interpreting data.

“Learning how to take unclear concepts and anchor them in numbers has been invaluable,” Martin said. “Such a skillset translates directly into the work I do at START.”

PIRUS is an open-source database of about 1,500 individuals who have radicalized in the U.S. and have been arrested, indicted, or killed in action for ideologically motivated crimes, or are members of criminal extremist organizations, across Islamist, Far Left, Far Right, and single-issue ideologies. Martin and her team are working on the latest phase of the project, which focuses on understanding deradicalization and disengagement from extremist ideologies and groups, respectively. Using open-source research and software such as Microsoft Excel, Martin detects and codes changes in behaviors and beliefs in these individuals over time, and seeks to determine how, when and why extremists deradicalize, disengage, or both.

Martin’s passion for counterterrorism extends beyond the walls of START. In her free time, Martin develops her own database on foreign fighters. She hopes to uncover the factors that influence someone’s decision to travel abroad and join a foreign conflict.

“I am interested in the push factors at home,” Martin said. “We cannot change the conflict, but perhaps we can provide these individuals with the skills and opportunities they need to spark constructive dialogue and positively influence their decisions.”

Martin, who will embark on her master’s degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution next year, desires to work as a researcher in the counterterrorism academic field.

Although Martin has not directly followed in her parents’ footsteps, she hopes to work in Washington, D.C., serving the United States by directly contributing to key conversations surrounding countering violent extremism domestically and abroad.

“My goal is to equip people with the tools they need to dampen violent extremism,” Martin said. “My goal is to keep it peaceful.”