CTSS internship program

The Center for Terrorism and Security Studies (CTSS) offers undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to engage in a variety of research projects through the CTSS internship program. The CTSS internship program offers students at UMass Lowell hands-on experience and training in areas of data collection, data analysis, and research and practitioner presentations. CTSS interns are also exposed to a wide variety of expertise and guest lectures from internal and external experts in the areas of terrorism; counter-terrorism; security, stability as well as a host of practitioners in the fields of law enforcement and law.

CTSS interns have used their experiences to conduct innovative independent projects on terrorism which have been presented at University-wide conferences as well as forming data to support their undergraduate, honors or masters’ theses. They have used this opportunity as a platform to gain internships with United States Government Agencies and the Washington Center, as well as employment in law enforcement and counter-terrorism.

“The internship through CTSS gave me the opportunity to be involved in research and data collection. Instead of just reading about studies, I was able to be a part of the process.”

- Jennifer, Political Science, Class of 2017

Examples of previous internships offered:

Propaganda and Extreme Action: An Analysis of Jihadist Video Propaganda

This internship focused on the gathering and the analysis of data which explores how terrorists develop, disseminate, and create propaganda. This study focused on videos produced by various Jihadist organizations from around the world. These videos range from amateur, hand-held cell phone, and camcorder video, through professional production, computer-generated images, and narration. This research seeks to explore the content, structure, and meta-data associated with these videos. The participating interns will first read and analyze a description of the video written by the SITE Intelligence Group. Following the data extraction from this production, the students then watched the related video, coding information about the style, content, themes, and quality of the video. Students gained an understanding of not just data collection and data coding, but how terrorist groups use propaganda to target specific audiences.

Extreme Right In America

Terrorists like Timothy McVeigh and Dylan Roof exemplify the damage, to property and life, caused by planned, calculated acts of terrorism motivated by far-right sentiments. Nevertheless, a growing number of American Far Right ideologically motivated attacks occur spontaneously and without premeditation. The stabbing to death of Richard Collins III by Sean Christopher Urbanski at the University of Maryland is a case in point, as it occurred without warning and no evidence suggests the victim or offender knew each other. This murder and similar incidents drive us to question what drives affiliates of American Far Right groups to commit spontaneous, unplanned attacks? This internship wanted to answer such a question in a three-step process. The first was that participating students identified cases of spontaneous violent or property crime from a database of over 4,000 criminal incidents attributed to far-right ideologies. Among the cases the students identified as spontaneous, they began to collect environmental and offender data on the cases. During the second step, the students examined government statistics from the United States census to code geographic and environmental information about where these spontaneous acts occurred. In the final part of the semester, students began to analyze the cases and extract relevant offender information. The students relied on open-source publications about the incidents to code personal information about each spontaneous offender. At the end of the internship, the students amassed a database dealing with over 700 cases of spontaneous right-wing criminality committed by over 1800 offenders. Overall, the students gained skills in coding, data management, case identification, and data collection from open source and official statistics. 

Arie Perliger, Ph.D., Professor of Security Studies, and Matthew Sweeney, Doctoral Teaching Fellow, will present the results of this work at the joint conference of the International Security Studies Section of the International Studies Association and the International Security and Arms Control Section of the American Political Science Association in Washington D.C. at the School of International Service at American University.

Risk Assessment

Increasingly we see that individuals who become involved in terrorism were not unknown quantities but were instead known to the security agencies and, at some point, risk assessed. What this means is that instead of simply needing “more information” to solve the problem of terrorism, we need to better understand how to identify, assess and make decisions about the risk that an individual poses. In this internship, using both data from real cases of terrorism and well-known tools for assessing the risk of violent offenders, interns worked with Neil Shortland, Ph.D., to collect data on risk points and outcomes in order to test the effectiveness of several known risk assessment models. As part of this internship students received hands-on experience of working with such tools and the many issues associated with trying to predict the risk that an individual poses.

Typologies of Terrorist Involvement

As part of a project for the Department of Homeland Security led by Prof. John Horgan and Neil Shortland, Ph.D., interns collected a database of over 180 individuals who were inspired by, or acted in support of Al-Qaeda and were convicted of terrorist offenses in the United States between 1980 and 2010. As part of this project CTSS interns populated a 200+ variable codebook for each terrorist offender. This codebook involved datapoints for socio-demographics, background, involvement and engagement in terrorism and their eventual sentencing outcome.

The final database was then analyzed using statistical methods from Forensic and Investigate psychology and delivered as a final report to the Department of Homeland Security.

View a one-page outline of the project.

Now Accepting Applications for the CTSS Internship

UMass Lowell’s Center for Terrorism and Security Studies (CTSS) is seeking highly motivated students to become involved in the CTSS Internship. CTSS is offering one 3-credit internship (credit description) that focuses on the gathering and the analysis of data aimed at understanding the connection between terrorist groups and criminal networks.  Students will be given the opportunity to experience the various stages of research construction and design, and to utilize the data for their own work as well. 

The CTSS internship offers students the opportunity to gain some hands-on experience of researching terrorism and terrorist offenders. As part of this internship students will collect, analyze and present data on terrorist offenders and terrorist attacks in the United States. Students have used the CTSS internship to support job applications for law enforcement, government agencies, roles for intelligence agencies and the armed forces. 


Weekly meetings will take place on UML South Campus. The position will require a commitment of 10 hours per week. 

How to Apply 

This internship is open to UML students from all majors. While we encourage previous interns to re-apply and continue to work with us, we also strongly encourage new interns to apply. Applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, December 15, 2017. 

No previous education in terrorism or homeland security is required to apply for this internship.

  • E-mail a resume and cover letter as a single file, PDF document to Arie Perliger at arie_perliger@uml.edu.
  • The file must be titled “Your-Last-Name CTSS Application.pdf”
  • Resume should include both your cumulative and last-semester grade point averages.
  • Cover letter should be addressed to Professor Arie Perliger
  • Cover letter must indicate whether the student intends to pursue the internship for credit.