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Interdisciplinary investigation

by Greg St. Martin

Throughout her North­eastern expe­ri­ence, rising senior Kaitlyn Duffy has explored a range of sci­ence and security-​​related topics from an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary per­spec­tive in the class­room, on co-​​op, and abroad.

Duffy entered North­eastern as a chem­istry major, with plans to minor in crim­inal jus­tice and pursue a career in foren­sics. But she was soon cap­ti­vated by the pos­si­bil­i­ties of inves­ti­gating these areas from a wider, more global lens.

“My inter­ests evolved to taking a more transna­tional view of crim­inal studies, dis­aster pre­pared­ness, and counter-​​terrorism,” said Duffy, now a double major in chem­istry and polit­ical sci­ence who is in the Honors pro­gram. “It’s sim­ilar to my orig­inal focus on foren­sics, but now from a larger viewpoint.”

Duffy’s expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­ni­ties began in 2011 with a co-​​op at INTERPOL Wash­ington, the United States National Cen­tral Bureau. Though she interned in the drug divi­sion assisting on case work related to inter­na­tional drug traf­ficking and crime, she saw first­hand how closely many inter­na­tional, fed­eral, and state agen­cies com­mu­ni­cate and work together to dis­tribute infor­ma­tion and inves­ti­gate crime.

On a Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions pro­gram in Switzer­land last summer, Duffy studied dis­ar­ma­ment diplo­macy, sim­u­lated inter­na­tional nego­ti­a­tions with diplo­mats from the United Nations and NATO, and helped draft a mock human­i­tarian treaty on the use of land mines. Then, on her second co-​​op, she worked at Risk Solu­tions Inter­na­tional LLC in New York, a firm that pro­vides con­sulting and tech­nology solu­tions to oper­a­tional risks orga­ni­za­tions face. Her work involved assisting in research for emer­gency man­age­ment plan­ning and helping draft risk-​​related doc­u­ments for the firms’ clients.

Now, Duffy is one of about 200 under­grad­u­ates selected for the Naval Research Enter­prise Intern­ship Pro­gram this summer. Through the 10-​​week pro­gram, under­grad­uate and grad­uate stu­dents par­tic­i­pate in research in a Depart­ment of Navy lab­o­ra­tory; Duffy will com­plete her time at the Naval Post­grad­uate School in Mon­terey, Calif. After her intern­ship, she will return to Wash­ington to co-​​op at the State Department’s Bureau of Inter­na­tional Secu­rity and Nonproliferation.

Duffy devel­oped her interest in crim­inal studies and sci­ence as a kid. She grew up reading murder-​​mystery novels and dreamed of one day becoming a marine biol­o­gist. Born in New Jersey, Duffy and her family lived abroad in Aus­tralia and Sin­ga­pore for sev­eral years before returning to the United States in August 2001. She recalled the ter­rorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 taking place on her second day of fifth grade, as she was still get­ting accli­mated back to Amer­ican life.

“I’ve really only known America since 9/​11,” explained Duffy, who said the attacks influ­enced her interest in pur­suing a career a security-​​related field.

Duffy said each of her North­eastern expe­ri­ences has yielded new insights, skills, and oppor­tu­ni­ties. For example, her co-​​op at INTERPOL inspired her to take an inter­na­tional law course, and she expects that her knowl­edge of forensic sci­ence will serve her well during her lab intern­ship this summer.

“These expe­ri­ences and the skills I’ve learned have always been applic­able to what I’m working on next,” Duffy said. “Whether it’s cur­rent events or what I’m learning in the class­room or on co-​​op, it’s all been interconnected.”

Originally published in news@Northeastern on June 17, 2013.

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