Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Project: Examining Radicalization's Risk and Protective Factors for Domestic Terrorists
Primary Faculty Member: Steve Chermak (chermak@msu.edu)
Application Deadline: 10/1/2021
Start Date: As Soon As Possible
End Date: December, 2021
Expected Time Commitment: 8 to 10 Hours Per Week (On Average)
Minimum Qualifications: 3.2 GPA Minimum; Interest in the Topic
Applicable For: Course Credit & To Fulfill Experiential Learning Requirement

Description of Project:

This project studies the multidimensional pathways that led to extremism and extremist behaviors of domestic terrorists. The goal of the project is to lead to significant advancements in the understanding of the risk and protective factors that either directly, or in combination, interact to increase or mitigate the risk of radicalization and terrorism. Our focus is on comparing differences in criminological indicators present across domestic terrorists (Far Right, Far Left, and Jihadist-Inspired), other violent offenders, and noncriminal extremists. The research results will be of great and immediate relevance to law enforcement officials, other local leaders, and policymakers working to develop innovative solutions for mitigating the domestic pathways to terrorism. We also expect the study to contribute significantly to the scientific literature, which currently lacks rigorous research designs on this topic.

Description of Duties:

I often involve students in my research projects with the goal of providing an opportunity for them to see the research process in action and develop some understanding how academic scholarship works. Students who have worked with in the past have been able to springboard that experience to accomplish both their education and professional goals. I will work with you to understand your goals and help guide you to achieve them. The duties for this project include:

  1. Similar to what an intelligence analyst might have to do, we collect open source data related to the criminal activities of domestic terrorists.
  2. Help identify risk and protective factors present in materials that have been collected.
  3. Conduct social media searches to search for additional information.

We will train you and provide feedback that will help you develop a research/analytical skillset. Since the work related to open source, you will have considerable flexibility of when you do the work. However, my expectations is that you would be able to work 8-10 hours per week in order to benefit fully from the experience. I often am able to provide students paid positions based on performance.

Project: Understanding the Root Causes of School Violence 
Primary Faculty Member: Steve Chermak (chermak@msu.edu)
Application Deadline: 10/1/2021
Start Date: As Soon As Possible
End Date: December, 2021
Expected Time Commitment: 8 to 10 Hours Per Week
Minimum Qualifications: 3.2 GPA Minimum; Interest in the Topic
Applicable For: Course Credit & To Fulfill Experiential Learning Requirement

Description of Project:

This project focuses on understanding the root causes of school violence. We are collecting data on a sample of 250 adolescent school shooters, youth violent offenders, and non-offending youths. These data will allow us to better understand how school shooters are similar/different than other violent offenders and other students. We will compare/contrast the differences in offender backgrounds, social networks and family relationships, criminal and personal histories, life-course events, and other risk and protective factors leading to an individuals’ involvement in school violence, isolating the differences across the groups. The findings from the study will benefit school leadership, law enforcement, and the academic community.

Description of Duties:

I often involve students in my research projects with the goal of providing an opportunity for them to see the research process in action and develop some understanding how academic scholarship works. Students who have worked with in the past have been able to springboard that experience to accomplish both their education and professional goals. I will work with you to understand your goals and help guide you to achieve them.

The duties for this project include:

1. Similar to what an intelligence analyst might have to do, we collect open source data related to the criminal activities of school shooters, youth offenders, and other students.
2. Help identify the background, network, family, criminal history, and life history variables in the material.
3. Conduct social media searches to search for additional information.

We will train you and provide feedback that will help you develop a research/analytical skill set. Since the work related to the project is open source, you will have considerable flexibility when you do the work. However, my expectations is that you would be able to work 8-10 hours per week in order to benefit fully from the experience. I often am able to provide students paid positions based on performance and interest.

Project: Understanding Extreme Far-Right Attacks and Foiled Plots
Primary Faculty Member: Steve Chermak (chermak@msu.edu)
Application Deadline: 10/1/2021
Start Date: As Soon As Possible
End Date: December, 2021
Expected Time Commitment: 8 to 10 Hours Per Week
Minimum Qualifications:  3.2 GPA Minimum; Interest in the Topic
Applicable For: Course Credit & To Fulfill Experiential Learning Requirement

Description of Project:

This project is part of the U.S. Extremist Crime Database (ECDB), an open-source relational database that includes data on extremist crimes since 1990. The ECDB is co-led by researchers at the Michigan State University, the University of Arkansas, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Seattle University. The purpose of this project is to add data on violent plots committed by violent far-right extremists to expand the scope of the ECDB. For each plot listed in the ECDB Masterfile (located on Google Drive), research assistants will be asked to search for information using case details as search terms, create carefully organized open-source files, and code data into the ECDB. Work on this project completed during the Fall 2021 semester will primarily focus on fully coding violent plots committed since 2015 into the ECDB.

Description of Duties:

I often involve students in my research projects with the goal of providing an opportunity for them to see the research process in action and develop some understanding how academic scholarship works. Students who have worked with in the past have been able to springboard that experience to accomplish both their education and professional goals. I will work with you to understand your goals and help guide you to achieve them.

The duties for this project include:

1) identify far-right attempted homicides from open-sources (e.g., advocacy group reports, media accounts), focusing primarily on plots committed since 2015.
2) systematically search a series of open-sources and create an “open-source file” by copying/pasting all relevant materials into a single Word open-source file" document, and
3) code for all offender, victim, and incident-level variables into a single spreadsheet (known as the U.S. Extremist Crime Database).

We will train you and provide feedback that will help you develop a research/analytical skillset. Since the work related to open source, you will have considerable flexibility of when you do the work. However, my expectations is that you would be able to work 8-10 hours per week in order to benefit fully from the experience.