PhD in Criminology, Law and Society

Heather Prince, 2022

Heather Prince

Describe your dissertation, thesis, or capstone (if you completed one):

“Are Those Teenagers Really Up to No Good? Developing a Predictive Model of Juvenile Crime”

Using extreme gradient boosted random forest modeling, I developed a machine learning model that uses characteristics of an offense/incident to predict whether a juvenile was the perpetrator. These models can be used to further our understanding of unknown spatial and temporal patterns of juvenile crime and to assist in developing more effective, fair, evidence based juvenile crime policy.

How did you choose your specific area of study?

I studied criminology in undergrad, and decided I wanted to do a PhD - I went to UPenn for my masters and then came to Mason from there.

How did your academic experiences in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences impact you?

I developed Stata and R skills, among many others, as a GRA that helped me land a full time job doing research, data analysis, and policy recommendations that I absolutely love.

Of which accomplishment(s) during your time at Mason are you most proud?

One of the largest accomplishments was being able to entirely recreate data cleaning/processing/visualization programs for one of the projects I worked on as a GRA - the data format had switched and I managed to write the programs, create the new data cleaning and data reports processes, and re-clean and process 10+ years of data on a tight timeline. I learned I can handle what may seem like an enormous task and do so (relatively) gracefully.

Are there faculty or staff members who made a difference during your Mason career?

Dr. Lum, Dr. Gill, and Dr. Wilson have all made my time at GMU and my dissertation work an awesome experience. They are fantastic teachers, mentors, and dissertation committee members that I am thankful to have worked with.

What advice would you give to an incoming cohort of graduate students?

I know this is cliché, but get out of your comfort zone, and don’t be afraid to just ask for things. The worst that can happen is the answer is no. I’ve been a TA at Penn, interned with the ATF, received grants, and landed the career of my dreams by simply asking if there are opportunities available. Don’t be afraid to try things that aren’t exactly what you’d planned - you may find you love it, or you may learn what you don’t like, which is also important.

What are your current career plans following graduation? What are your long-term career goals?

I landed a full time job as a research analyst with RTI International in December, and I started in January. I absolutely love it, and I plan to stay here long term, though who knows what the future holds.