Mary Chen, NPTS ’19

National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) Summer Internship

This summer, I completed an internship with the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). As an Advanced Research Intern with the Unconventional Weapons and Technology (UWT) Unit, I was given the responsibility of creating my own research project for the purposes of future academic study. I chose to design a wargame based on the scenario of nuclear sabotage to explore state and local response to a radiological/terrorist event. As I had no previous experience in designing wargames, I conducted copious amounts of research on wargames, their variations and their purposes. As a part of this process, I learned how to design red-team exercises and blue-team exercises, as both components were needed in the overall wargame. This gave me the opportunity to conduct research into violent, non-state actors; their motivations, capabilities and opportunities for nuclear sabotage; existing state emergency preparedness plans; state and local entities responsible for crisis management; nuclear reactors; and nuclear reactor safety plans. From this research, I gained an in-depth knowledge of nuclear energy and safety of the United States, as well as the methodologies used to determine simulations of adversary attack cycle and adversary group composition. I was able to apply the material I had learned in my first semester at MIIS to use appropriate research techniques in conducting literature review, data analysis and non-state, violent actor case studies. As the audience of a wargame involves the academic community, I had to design my wargame to include the participation of a wide variety of students.

Additionally, by embarking on my own research project, I was able to improve on my project management, time management and other organization skills to effectively produce a draft proposal by the end of my internship. I was also able to practice my networking skills by approaching different experts within and external to the UWT division for advice and consultation on my project. Given that many of the researchers at START, and especially in UWT, had specialized training and education in key subject areas, I was able to draw from this knowledge hub to aid in my own research. Professionally, START offered many opportunities for the interns to expand their awareness of and connections in the national security field. I was able to attend a Women in International Security networking event and the Wargaming Connections 2018 Conference in Washington, D.C. – where I met several individuals with whom I discussed my work and potential career paths.

Overall, this internship greatly broadened my horizons, giving me the opportunity to see how nonproliferation and terrorism intersect in the real world. I hope to bring my wargame design to MIIS as a directed study in order to put it into practice with a group of my peers and share this knowledge with other students who may be interested in the game and learning objectives.

“Attending a WIIS networking event in D.C. with a host of START Interns.”

Click here to check out Mary’s wargame, “Marking Mayhem”

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