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Interdisciplinary investigation

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.”

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