UNO students earn funding, internship from Homeland Security

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July 29th, 2013

(L-R) Quinn Guilds, graduate student in criminology/criminal justice; and Dan Harris, doctoral student in the industrial/organizational psychology program, have both been recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (Photo Courtesy KVNO News)

(L-R) Quinn Guilds, graduate student in criminology/criminal justice; and Dan Harris, doctoral student in the industrial/organizational psychology program, have both been recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (Photo Courtesy KVNO News)

Omaha, NE – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has awarded top honors to two University of Nebraska at Omaha students.

Quinn Guilds and Dan Harris have been recognized by the National Consortium for Studies of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START).

Guilds, a graduate student in criminology and criminal justice, has received an internship this fall at the University of Maryland. He will work for the U.S. State Department analyzing information for the Global Terrorism Database.

“It feels great,” Guilds said. “To be able to put my application in and six weeks later and hear that they wanted to talk to me a little bit more or that they wanted to see what I was made of to do some research was awesome.”

Harris is the first Nebraska student to receive the Terrorist Research Award. The $5,000 stipend will be used to conduct research and for traveling expenses to START’s annual meeting next year. He will also be able to attend graduate courses at the University of Maryland through a scholarship provided by START.

Both students will conduct research in the area of terrorism with hopes that their findings could be used to prevent terrorist attacks.

“It’s nice to be recognized for the amount of work that goes into planning a research proposal,” said Harris, a doctoral student in the industrial/organizational psychology program. “It also feels really good as a researcher that out of hundreds of applicants I was only one of 10 to be chosen. It’s quite a nice feeling.”

Harris is working alongside UNO professors Doug Derrick, assistant professor of IT development; Pete Simi, associate professor of criminology; and Gina Ligon, assistant professor of management.  Harris will collect and analyze data of individuals who were once apart of terrorist groups to identify speech patterns that may signify a person’s reasons for leaving an extremist group. He will use vocalic data to trace subject’s pitch and frequency based on different psychological variables.

“I’m exploring how individuals who used to be part of extremists groups kind of frame who they used to be, how they used to be and how they currently are now,” Harris said.

Guilds said there is more than what meets the eye when it comes to acts of terrorism. What the public sees is only a glimpse, according to Guilds.

“Terrorism is not irrational,” Guilds said. “People see these events happen daily on the news and they say that’s a crazy person I can’t believe that but something inside them motivated them to do that and changed their perception. It’s an upbringing against an oppressive force or it’s for religious views or one of the thousand other motivations that are out there.”

Harris most research on terrorism focuses on the beginnings of terrorism and they events that led up to a person becoming an extremist, but he thinks it’s also important to look at the after effects.

“My research is kind of focusing on the end game, but what about after the fact,” Harris said. “What happens to individuals cognitively and emotionally after they’re out of that extremist group or ideology? Not much attention has been devoted to that and that’s what I’m particularly interested in.”

Guilds will be heading to the east coast for his internship August, while Harris will continue conducting research at the UNO campus.

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