By Tim Weinhold ’18
Over the course of the spring 2017 semester, I was fortunate to be a participant in a new grant opportunity sponsored by the Office of the Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and jointly run by the Faculty Development Program and the Undergraduate Research Program. Titled the Apprentice Grant, its goals are to support faculty members by pairing them with students who are exposed to professional life and are given the opportunity to further their professional development. My professor, Elizabeth Gurian, Ph.D., approached me and asked if I would be interested in the program. She explained that I would be tasked with aiding her research for her work, Mass Murderers and Lone Actors: Exploring the Use of Typologies. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
My role in the apprenticeship was to populate a database of offenders who fit the specific research variables. I scoured a wide variety of sources, from scholarly research and academic journals to online news reports and newspapers, to search for offenders who satisfied the operational definitions of a mass murderer and lone actor. Once identified, my job was to fill in the 14 variables outlined by Professor Gurian. The variables provide information on the offender (e.g. age, sex, gender, race, occupation, education, conviction, and sentence) as well as the nature of the crime (e.g. date, location, method, motive, mobility, and victim type). At the conclusion of the semester, the database had grown to 39 offenders with a corresponding reference list of sources.
The apprenticeship was an extremely beneficial and enlightening experience. I was able to improve my research skills in a field I am passionate about. I truly enjoyed the research I was doing—being paid to do so was an added bonus. However, I did have to work for the money. Professor Gurian did not do my job for me. She pointed me in the right direction, made sure I understood what I was doing, and let me figure it out for myself—something I appreciated. As much work as I wanted to put into it was as much experience I would get out of it. The apprenticeship was not only great for my personal development, but I feel as though I made a positive contribution to her research. I am fortunate to have gained practical research experience under the support of a faculty member, and one day I hope to expand upon this work and cultivate it into research of my own.