College students seek solutions to terrorism

Recent terrorist attacks in places like the Middle East and Yemen have sparked many students to ask: Why does terrorism occur, and what can I do to stop it?

The University of Missouri-Columbia introduced a unique class this semester to help answer that question. It teaches students how to respond to and combat threats or acts of cyber-, biological, and chemical terrorism.

The course explains why such acts occur and how to prevent them and minimize their impact. It also examines the scientific and technical aspects of counterterrorism.

"This is becoming a sensitive area, and other universities are starting these types of programs," says Tushar Ghosh, a professor of nuclear engineering at Missouri.

The class is taught by several professors with a range of specialities such as the politics, psychology, history, and medical impacts of terrorism.

Some students, whose majors include journalism and engineering, aspire to work for the government to combat terrorism. Others simply want to understand why it happens and how to end it.

Days after the USS Cole was attacked by suspected terrorists, for instance, students learned how terrorist groups get started and what some of their motives are. The class has also researched the US embassy bombings in Africa and examined potential threats linked to India's and Pakistan's nuclear-weapons development.

Christina Plies, a nuclear-engineering student, says she gained key insights on how group mentality and generational influences can contribute to terrorist behavior, particularly when it comes to religious and territorial disputes.

In the next few weeks, students will hear from Defense Department representatives about strategies in combating terrorism.

The class will also discuss how people can be prepared for emergencies and look for warning signs.

One project requires the class to update a list of terrorist groups and determine which ones would be likely to attack and how they could be deterred.

The class has inspired some to change their career paths. Ms. Plies says she's developed a strong interest in national security, especially nuclear issues.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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