Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Project: Understanding Terrorist Offenders
Primary Faculty Member: Steve Chermak (chermak@msu.edu)
Application Deadline: 2/1/2023
Start Date: When Available
End Date: May 2023
Expected Time Commitment: 5-10 hours work per week (more/less depending on your commitments)
Minimum Qualifications: Interest in the topic
Applicable For: Course Credit & To Fulfill Experiential Learning Requirement

Description of Project:

In this project, we are examining how terrorists are similar and different compared to other violence offenders. We are identifying the factors relevant for understanding their pathway to violence.

Description of Duties:

This is an interesting project, but also ideal in many ways because it provides flexibility in terms of task and commitment. We ask students to collect open source information about the offenders. After we train you on using our protocol, you will be assigned a single case. You can complete the work anywhere you can get access to the Internet (your own personal computer; computers in public spaces, etc). However, if access is an issue, we will be able to make arrangements so you can do the work. Once you complete the work on that case and submit it, we will send another case. Duties will vary depending on whether you would simply like to volunteer, get course credit, or fulfill the experiential learning requirement



Project: From Dot Coms to Pipe Bombs: Online Radicalization and Mobilization to Violence
Primary Faculty Member: Steve Chermak (chermak@msu.edu)
Application Deadline: 2/1/2023
Start Date: When Available
End Date: May 2023
Expected Time Commitment: 5-10 hours work per week (more/less depending on your commitments)
Minimum Qualifications: Interest in the topic
Applicable For: Course Credit & To Fulfill Experiential Learning Requirement

Description of Project:

This study will investigate the salience of risk and protective factors across a variety of offender types including terrorists and violent extremists, non-violent extremist financial or material support offenders, non-violent extremist cyber-crime perpetrators, and violent but non-extremist hate crime offenders. Data will be integrated from four comprehensive open-source databases, including the American Terrorism Study (ATS), U.S. Extremist Crime Database (ECDB), U.S. Extremist Cybercrime Database (ECCD), and the Bias Homicide Database (BHDB).

Description of Duties:

After completing a training, students will be provided all information we have about a particular offender/case. They will then be asked to identify characteristics of the case and input the information into a research codebook. Commitment will depend on your interests. We have volunteer positions, or you can apply course credit or fulfill experiential learning requirements. Pay positions will be available in the summer.



Project: Cybercrime on the Open and Dark Web
Primary Faculty Member: Tom Holt (holtt@msu.edu)
Application Deadline: 2/15/2023
Start Date: When Available
End Date: June 2023
Expected Time Commitment: 10 hours per week (more/less depending on your commitments)
Minimum Qualifications: Interest in the topic
Applicable For: Experiential Learning Credit & Paid Hourly Work

Description of Project:

This study will assess the current state of cybercrime as service ventures operating on both the Open and Dark Web, based on the advertisements and language used by offenders in active online environments. Data will be developed from active and inactive cybercrime forums and websites to understand what products are sold, at what price, how money flows, and the ways in which products are delivered.

Description of Duties:

After completing a training, students will be provided with information from specific online sources to document the characteristics of products and input those details into a research codebook. Commitment will depend on your interests. We have volunteer positions, paid positions, or you can apply course credit or fulfill experiential learning requirements.



Project: The Juvenile Risk Assessment Team
Primary Faculty Member: Dr. Caitlin Cavanagh (caitcav@msu.edu)
Application Deadline: 2/27/2023
Start Date: April 2023
End Date: April 2024
Expected Time Commitment: 5 hours per week
Minimum Qualifications:

  • Available for one calendar year (summer, fall, & spring semesters, 2023-24) 

  • 5 hours of availability per week and transportation to court
  • Minimum GPA: 2.8
  • Have taken a research methods or statistics course

Applicable For: Course Credit & To Fulfill Experiential Learning Requirement

Description of Project:

The project involves a partnership between MSU (under the leadership of Dr. Caitlin Cavanagh) and a local juvenile court. At the court, each youth who is charged with a crime is administered a risk assessment, which identifies areas of unmet need and how likely the youth is to offend again. The project has expanded to include assessments for juvenile sex offenders, families involved in the abuse/neglect division of the court, youth with mental health needs, and potential victims of human trafficking and exploitation To learn more, see: www.TheADJustLab.com.

  • Great behind the scenes experience into juvenile court and case processing of juvenile delinquents (please note: no contact with youth, but continuous networking with court staff) 

  • Create an individual research project to present at a national academic conference— FANTASTIC opportunity for those interested in graduate school! 

  • May be opportunities for students to become involved in publications 

  • Receive a personalized letter of recommendation based on the quality of the
    work
  • Excellent community-based opportunity for those who are interested in applying
    to graduate school in psychology, social work, criminal justice, or related fields
  • Opportunity for independent study or experiential learning credit 


Description of Duties:

  • Data entry in a juvenile court setting
  • Communicating with probation officers and some data management
  • Attending a mandatory bi-weekly meeting with court and research staff
  • Working with your supervisor to create an independent research study.