" In the Honours program, I developed an appreciation for the research process. I enjoyed reading up on a pressing crime issue, applying criminological theory to understand the ‘why,’ and suggesting crime prevention measures to combat it. I wanted to refine my abilities to perform research in this way so I applied to the master’s program."

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Tyler Mierzwa

January 17, 2024

Criminology master's student in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Tell us a little about yourself, including what inspires you to learn and continue in your chosen field

Hi, I’m Tyler! I’m a Master’s student in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University. I am originally from Chicago but I moved to Chilliwack, B.C. when I was young. I graduated with my bachelor’s in Criminology and a minor in political science from SFU in 2022. My research interests are in environmental criminology and crime prevention. I study under the supervision of Dr. Shannon Linning who takes a practical, place-based approach to understanding crime. I think we are all products of our environment. If we can adapt the features of a place to where 1 person is deterred from offending, to me that’s a win. This is much easier said than done so we have lots of research left to do.

Why did you choose to come to SFU?

I chose to continue my studies at SFU because of the Honours program in my undergraduate studies. At the time, I was researching catalytic converter theft, a prevalent type of metal theft targeting the exhaust system of a vehicle. In the Honours program, I developed an appreciation for the research process. I enjoyed reading up on a pressing crime issue, applying criminological theory to understand the ‘why,’ and suggesting crime prevention measures to combat it. I wanted to refine my abilities to perform research in this way so I applied to the master’s program.

How would you describe your research or your program to a family member?

I would first clarify that environmental criminology is not about environmental issues such as climate change, old growth logging and so on! Environmental criminology is the study of the spatial and temporal elements of crime. For example, I am currently researching crime radiation at bars. This is a phenomenon where features of a ‘problematic’ bar may promote crime both within the bar and in its surrounding areas (like back alleys and parking lots). If we can identify these problematic places that radiate crime, our crime prevention efforts may produce benefits for both the place and its surrounding areas. Solutions to problematic bars might include changing management practices, improving serving practices, and hiring door security, to name a few examples.

What three (3) keywords would you use to describe your research?

Crime radiation; crime at bars; place management.

How have your courses, RA-ships, TA-ships, or non-academic school experiences contributed to your academic and/or professional development?

My experience as a teaching assistant has played a profound role in my development. I love what I study. Environmental criminology is a niche area in criminology, so I hope my passion inspires undergraduates in taking a place-based approach to understanding crime and crime prevention. TAing helps improve my leadership, public speaking, and powerpoint-making abilities for a topic I’m very passionate about. I am also thankful for my Research Assistantships. Conducting research with Dr. Shannon Linning has enabled me to take part in the research process beyond what our courses offer. As a research assistant, I have created searchable databases comprising hundreds of journal articles and produced literature reviews on those articles. We are currently working on a project summarizing the ways local police can address violence in their community using a place-focused approach. These include methods like hotspots patrol, foot patrol, and place network investigations.

Have you been the recipient of any major or donor-funded awards? If so, please tell us which ones and a little about how the awards have impacted your studies and/or research

I am very honoured to have received the 2023 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s (SSHRC) “Canada Graduate Scholarships-Master’s (CGS-M)” award. I have also been funded by my department with Travel and Research Awards. Both sources of funding have covered airfare and travel expenses to Carbondale, Illinois and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for conferences this past year. By attending, I learned the newest methods and techniques firsthand from the top scholars in my field. I plan on using these methods in my own research to make meaningful analyses of the violent crime data at bars.

What have been the most valuable lessons you've learned along your graduate student journey (or in becoming a graduate student)?

I have learned the importance of keeping an open mind. Criminology is an interdisciplinary, diverse field. Oftentimes, you learn of methods and theories that might not be specific to your studies. But learn of them as if they will be used in your own thesis. Take time to meet other graduate students and ask thoughtful questions about their research. You never know when a new idea or collaboration might spark. This leads to my second most valuable lesson, always have a notebook (or your notes app) handy!

How do you approach networking and building connections in and outside of your academic community?

I believe networking is best done in-person. I do my best to attend conferences, workshops, and seminars to make connections. I am thankful for my department and graduate caucus for organising socials and ‘brown bags’ to facilitate this process. ‘Brown bags’ are events where faculty members give a mini-lecture on things like publishing, presenting, writing, and even ChatGPT use. If in-person networking isn’t possible, I will sometimes send a respectful cold email introducing myself and my interest in someone’s research.

What are some tips for balancing your academic and personal life?

I am still learning how to maintain a healthy work-life balance. My partner, family, and friends keep me motivated so it is important I save time for them. I use an online calendar and literally schedule free time or social outings. Walks, screen breaks, and naps keep my daily battery charged as well.

If you could dedicate your research to anyone (past, present and/or future), who would that be and why?

I would dedicate my research to my brother. We routinely call and bounce ideas off one another. I can count on him to give me a fresh perspective on my ideas and goals. Plus, he offers great comedic relief.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

I want to express to undergraduates and graduate students that it is okay to not have things fully figured out. Some days I feel accomplished and other days I feel lost. I think it is natural to feel this way. I did not discover my passion, environmental criminology, until the third year of my undergrad. I did not remotely consider graduate school until my fourth year. Things have a way of working themselves out. Just keep working hard with an open mind!


Contact Tyler:tmierzwa@sfu.ca