Every spring DISCOVER: Marquette University Research and Scholarship showcases some of the most interesting research happening on Marquette's campus. Learn more through the links below.
Understanding the relationship between terrorists and society Dr. Risa Brooks knows what it’s like to be mistaken for a U.S. government operative. It’s an occupational hazard, of sorts. That’s because the assistant professor of political science asks a lot of questions about terrorists and their role in society. “People assume you’re a CIA operative. Or there’s always that possibility,” she says. “Maybe it’s paranoia, but there’s a sense of wondering about who you are.” Brooks, who specializes in the Middle East, focuses her research on societal-militant group relations, specifically relationships between militant-terrorist groups and the societies in which they live or with which they identify. “How are these kinds of groups that we often think of as extremely violent and extremely vile responding to cues from society?” she asks. “When do they care? Do some groups care more than others?” Some do, especially ethnonationalist ones, like a few Palestinian nationalist groups and the Provisional Irish Republican Army. “They see themselves as representing a constituency,” says Brooks, who authored Shaping Strategy: The Civil-Military Politics of Strategic Assessment and coedited Creating Military Power: The Sources of Military Effectiveness. On the other hand, as a foreign-led terrorist group, al Qaeda in Iraq does not. Because Brooks can’t easily interview heads of these militant groups, she studies the features of their organizations and violent activities. Her work also has interdisciplinary aspects And a bit anxiety-inducing. There’s the time she met privately with a former Egyptian military officer to discuss the country’s wars with Israel during the 1960s and ’70s. Or when she was followed after she deviated from the usual tourist sites to visit a military museum in Egypt. “Those moments were like, ‘Am I getting myself in a little bit of trouble here? This is a little too much like a spy novel,’” she says. Brooks’ current research project, “Terrorist behavior as a function of societal tolerance for violence,” is funded by the Department of Homeland Security through a grant supported by the University of Maryland-based National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. — BDJ and sometimes focuses on anthropological elements, such as graffiti markings and attendance at militants’ funerals. That influences her assumptions about how tolerant a society is for a group’s violence, but it’s not an exact science. “It’s quite a different process than going in with a survey and hiring a consulting firm,” she says. “It’s an informal, developing process, but it’s fun, too.” “How are these kinds of groups that we often think of as extremely violent and extremely vile responding to cues from society?” A 2-minute lifesaver Who knew taking 2 minutes to complete a form could help save your life? More than 8,000 Americans die from oral cancer each year — roughly one person every hour. But Dr. Amir Seifi in the Marquette School of Dentistry is working on an oral cancer risk assessment form that has the potential to catch this deadly disease at early stages and reduce the number of fatalities. “Finding a way of assessing the risk in our patients and catching the disease early with good diagnostic tools is our goal,” says Seifi, an assistant professor of oral medicine and diagnosis. The assessment form asks patients about their medical history, ethnicity, age and personal habits. Dentists routinely do comprehensive soft tissue exams, but Seifi says his form would help make the risk assessment a standardized practice — helping dentists educate their patients on avoiding risk factors and determine how aggressively they should treat a patient based on his or her risk factors. “If I see a discoloration or ulceration and my patient is at high risk, I would biopsy it,” Seifi says. Early detection is critical. Caught early, oral cancer has an 80 to 90 percent survival rate, and patients can typically avoid surgery (which can involve removing part or all of certain head and neck structures, such as the tongue or soft palate). “When you know you’re adding to this person’s life quality and life strength, it feels amazing,” Seifi says. Starting this spring, patients at the campus clinic will be asked to complete the new form. Seifi will use the data collected to compare the diagnoses and treatments received by high-risk patients against those with low risk factors to determine the form’s effectiveness. — AB Marquette University 21