Each month, the Office of Sponsored Programs will spotlight a different PI and their research. If you are interested in being featured in our next spotlight, please email Please be sure to provide us with an abstract (3-5 paragraphs) about your research, explanation of your recent project, the amount your project (s) were funded for, special events that you are hosting or coordinating, obstacles or challenges you faced during the application process, if applicable, and a photo of yourself.   

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Dr. Marie-Helen Maras,
Associate Professor, Department of Security, Fire, and Emergency Management

John Jay College of  Criminal Justice

Dr. Marie-Helen Maras is an Associate Professor in the Department of Security, Fire, and Emergency Management. She holds a DPhil in Law and an MPhil and MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Oxford, as well as graduate and undergraduate degrees from the University of New Haven and UMUC. Her academic background and research cover cyberlaw, transnational crime (e.g., cybercrime and trafficking in persons and drugs), transnational se-curity issues (e.g., war, disinformation, and terrorism), cybersecurity, and cyber-crime investigations (including Clearnet and Darknet). Dr. Maras is the author of numerous peer-reviewed academic journal articles and books, the most recent of which is Cybercriminology, published by Oxford University Press. She is cur-rently working on books on Cyberlaw and Cyberliberties, Transnational Crime, and Human Trafficking Today (the latter two books focus on the evolution of these crimes and the facilitation of these crimes by the Internet and digital tech-nology), as well as other projects with Oxford University Press. Dr. Maras and her co-Principal Investigators Dr. Jana Arsovska (Associate Professor, Sociology) and Adam Scott Wandt (Assistant Professor, Public Management) were recently awarded a $598,637 grant by the National Institute of Justice to conduct research on one form of transnational crime facilitated by the Internet and digital tech-nology – namely, fentanyl trafficking.

Fentanyl and its illicit analogues (hereafter fentanyl) play a prominent role in the American opioid epidem-ic. Fentanyl’s widespread availability as well as its potency explains the high death toll associated with its use. The sheer size of the Internet makes it easy for fentanyl listings and buyers and sellers of fentanyl to hide in plain sight. Additionally, illicit Darknet sites have lowered the barriers for entry into the fentanyl trade by making it easier for buyers and sellers to participate in the drug trade. Darknet drug markets involving fenta-nyl are in a constant state of flux. The rate of this change often exceeds current law enforcement capabilities to keep up with these changes – at least without the aid of research and technology. To fill this need, the Princi-pal Investigators, along with research associates, Dr. Melanie Knieps and Kenji Logie, are conducting research on Darknet fentanyl drug markets titled “Detecting Fentanyl and Major Players in Darknet Drug Markets by Analyzing Drug Networks and Developing a Threat Assessment Tool.”

Using a mixed methods approach, this research project will identify and map the structure of Darknet fentanyl drug markets and interactions between buyers and sellers of fentanyl (and its analogues), as well as assess the power and trustworthiness of sellers within these markets. Following the identification, mapping, and assess-ment of Darknet fentanyl drug markets and networks, a Darknet threat assessment tool will be developed. This tool will proactively identify the structure of and interactions within Darknet fentanyl drug networks, and the power and trustworthiness of sellers within these markets. The ultimate aim of the tool is to assess the credibility and seriousness of the threat posed by Darknet fentanyl sellers to public health and safety.

Dr. Arsovska is an expert in the areas of Organized Crime, Human Trafficking, Drug trafficking, Corrup-tion, and Balkan criminality. Mr. Wandt’s primary research interests include technology law and policy, information security, surveillance technologies, academic technology, social engineering, and UCR crime data.