There are numerous positions available within the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies (CTSS) to work as a research assistant on a faculty’s project. In this paid position, individuals will work alongside CTSS personnel to conduct research in the field surrounding security studies. These individuals will gain valuable experience in collecting, coding and analyzing data. Past students have been able to assist in writing the article and have become a co-author of a published article. Graduate students will be given a more advanced role within the project.
These research assistantships are part-time and open to all UMass Lowell undergraduate and graduate students, regardless of academic degree program. The position requires a commitment of 10 hours per week and students may work remotely on some project tasks.
Typologies of Terrorist Involvement: Research Assistants helped project staff build, clean and analyze a database of over 180 Al-Qaeda offenders. Here RA staff worked directly with our undergraduate interns to ensure that the large data coding activity was completed on time, they then worked with the project staff to write up a report for the Department of Homeland Security.
Often we find our selves in a position of having to guess someones intent simply from online expressions of intent. However, as we well know, this is not so easy given that so many people are online expressing extreme ideologies or proclaiming to have extremist intent. This places the analyst in a position of trying to work out which (of the many) threats may be real. In this project, and to answer this question, CTSS RAs worked with Neil Shortland
, Ph.D., and Prof. McCabe to develop a database of all known cases where an extremist individual expressed a extremist ideology. Then, using contemporary linguistic analysis techniques, RAs supported the coding of such data to identify linguistic differences between those whose intent is real, and those for whom it is just “hot air”.
Aggression and Propaganda: What happens when someone is exposed to extremist propaganda? The truth is, to date, we do not know. We often talk about the “radicalization” process, and, as an extension, the role that online material plays, but, to date, psychological research has done little to explore the specific psychological implications of exposure to such material. In this project, with support from several CTSS RAs (and emerging scholars and honors co-op students), CTSS faculty began an exploration of the psychological implications of exposure to extremist propaganda, and, crucially, the important personality differences that may dictate different outcomes of such exposure.
Least-worst First: In all areas of security, individuals are required to make critical least-worst decisions. Some individuals are very good at this, and others less so. In this body of work RAs helped CTSS faculty develop a series of experiments that were specifically designed to identify the individual differences in who is (and who is not) able to make critical least-worst decisions. This project involves support from both undergraduate RAs and CTSS-linked Ph.D. students.