IST students to present human trafficking research at state capitol

Jennifer Cifelli
February 26, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Three Security and Risk Analysis (SRA) students from the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) will present their research on human trafficking networks at the 13th annual Undergraduate Research at the Capitol -- Pennsylvania (URC-PA) Conference on March 3. (http://www.pasen.gov/urcpa/Organizers.htm).

The four-member team, consisting of SRA students Addie Jackson, Andrea Forster and Jesse Altmire, and international politics major Aubrey Biggs, were selected to showcase the data they’ve collected over the past year in a poster session to Pennsylvania legislators titled “Applying Information Analytics to Human Trafficking.” The team, one of only eight representing Penn State at the one-day conference in Harrisburg, hopes to catch the eye of policymakers who can allocate resources to the problem of sex trafficking in Pennsylvania. 

At the conference, the students will present their research in a short poster session format and then have time to network with fellow presenters before pre-arranged meetings with legislators for further discussion. Their research developed a methodology to identify sex trafficking social networks using open source data, and could be utilized with minimal manpower and technical overhead, said Altmire, who graduates in May.

“The outcome of this project will benefit law enforcement, social groups combating human trafficking, and eventually – and most important of all – the victims of human trafficking,” said Jackson, a junior.

The idea was a result of collaboration with the Pennsylvania Criminal Intelligence Center (PACIC), whose dialogue with Penn State resulted in the formulation of the current team. They all agree that working together has helped to improve the effectiveness of their work.

“Our team is very dynamic, which is beneficial, allowing us to look at the problems of our research project from different points of view and to approach the problems in different ways,” said Jackson.

While she is looking forward to presenting exceptional research in such an impressive platform, Forster said, the most important and driving factor for the team has always been about social justice and bringing an end to an issue that affects men and women across the nation.

“I’m most looking forward to spreading awareness,” said Forster, a junior. “Our research is just a small contribution to a much larger campaign to end human trafficking.”

“Every large problem is divisible into smaller, more approachable problems,” said Altmire. “I now know that with enough work anyone can make an impact on the problems they see in the world.  I think we should all strive to leave this world better than we found it, and I think we all have the potential to do that.”

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Last Updated March 02, 2015