A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

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Psychology, sociology background pave the way for intern’s foray into terrorism studies

Psychology, sociology background pave the way for intern’s foray into terrorism studies

June 29, 2015Charlotte Taylor

When Rory Fischer looks at a terrorism incident, she doesn’t just see a weapon, or a number of fatalities. Fischer also sees the potential to explore an extremist’s psychology.

“I want to understand what motivates people to commit acts of terror and find a way to prevent them,” said Fischer, a START summer intern working on the Unconventional Weapons and Technology project Behavioral Indicators of Insider Threats.

Fischer was in the fourth grade during the September 11 attacks. That moment, according to Fischer, sparked her interest in counterterrorism. During her undergraduate career, Fischer studied psychology and sociology at the University of Connecticut. Fischer graduated in 2014, and she is currently pursuing a master’s degree in forensic psychology from George Washington University.

“The professors work in the fields that they teach, so I am fortunate to learn from the best of the best. My course on psychology and the legal system was taught by a federal public defender, and a course on interviewing and interrogation was taught by a former member of the FBI’s behavioral analysis unit,” Fischer said.

Fischer credits her master’s program with guiding her to START. The program requires students to complete an “externship” rather than write a thesis and offers students a list of potential workplaces. START was on that list and caught Fischer’s eye.

“I appreciate the chance to gain real-world experience in a field that I love. I’m most interested in the psychological factors of terrorism, and the project I’m working on is an amazing opportunity to do just that. I’m also thrilled to work with so many knowledgeable staff members. They’re great resources,” Fischer said.

Fischer will be collaborating with supervisors and other interns, working together to create a knowledge matrix of different types of insider threats based on literature reviews.

“My dream job would be working with federal law enforcement. I’m also working with the Metropolitan Police Department this summer, and I think that, combined with my START experience, I’ll be in a good position to make my dream a reality,” Fischer said.