Matt Dickenson - PURS

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Matt Dickenson, 'One of OURs'

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When Matt Dickenson began his studies at the University of Houston in the fall of 2007, he could not have predicted the research opportunities he would have as an undergraduate. Matt's interest in the Middle East brought him to UH to study Arabic, and membership in The Honors College offered him a chance to interact with students and professors from many interesting fields. In a discussion with other members of the Model Arab League team (one of his favorite extracurricular activities), Matt heard about a class on political terrorism taught by Dr. Ryan Kennedy, and his interest was piqued.

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Dr. Kennedy expects his students to work hard, but in return he offers a great deal of expertise not only on terrorism, but also in political science in general. Matt was impressed by the use of quantitative analysis and formal modeling to understand complex problems and relationships. He began to wonder if these same methods could answer a question: what happens to a terrorist group when its leader is removed? Matt discovered that despite opinions offered freely on news programs and in policy discussions, very little empirical research has been done on this topic. It seemed like an ideal research question. This spring, with funding from the Office of Undergraduate Research through the PURS program and Dr. Kennedy’s supervision, he began to collect and analyze data to determine the impact of leadership turnover on terrorist groups.

Matt hopes to continue this project through the Office of Undergraduate Research's SURF program, and is planning to attend graduate school for political science after he completes his studies at UH. While he is not sure where the journey will lead, he is confident that the research opportunities, educational fundamentals, and intellectual thirst cultivated here will help him achieve his future goals.