Whether it is in the classroom, a cubicle at the Social Science Research Center (SSRC), or at conferences around the nation, Sierra Nelson is making an impact in the world of sociology and criminology with no plans to slow down.

Nelson, originally from Hernando, Mississippi, is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Sociology with a focus in criminology. She came to Mississippi State University (MSU) in 2014 after graduating from Delta State University (DSU). While at DSU, Nelson received a Bachelor’s in Social Justice and Criminology.

Her current research focuses on victim and offender relationships with a focus on homicide.

“I think it’s very interesting to look at the interactions between victims and offenders of crimes, especially since there is some overlap in how we view their relationships. Looking at the current media, there is often some grey area in how they are portrayed, whether that is diminishing the effect of a crime or blame shifting to a victim” she said.

Nelson joined the SSRC in 2016 as a graduate research assistant for the School Safety Grant, a part of the Social Relations Collaborative (SRC). On the project, she assists with surveys, writes for the project, and manages the project’s Facebook and YouTube channels, which is primarily used for vlogs. Video blogs, or vlogs, are a newer form of communication the SRC decided to use to disseminate their research findings.

When it comes to being in the research environment, Nelson believes it has given her a lot of new opportunities and experiences. She cites the open flow of ideas and brainstorming around the SSRC, as well as the hands-on experience from the grant as important.

“In our programs we talk about the different methods and steps you should take to do research or conduct surveys, but working here is actually giving me the chance to put them into practice. I have the chance to write for a project, deal with forms, interact with the Internal Review Board (IRB), and actually test out the methods we’re learning. It’s just infinitely more useful and feels more real to work with these methods rather than just read about it in books,” she remarked.

Nelson will be proposing and defending her master’s thesis throughout the next year. In the near future, she plans to continue her education by beginning the doctoral program in sociology at MSU. She has her sights set on making an impact in the publishing world, particularly looking at homicide and other important aspects surrounding our perceptions of victim-offender relationships and victimization.

“I was originally on the fence about moving forward with my PhD, but my experiences here at MSU and the SSRC helped me make up my mind,” she said. “After going to conferences and seeing different research, and getting some encouragement from my professors and colleagues, I’ve started to feel more at ease in the research environment.”

SSRC Spotlight: Sierra Nelson