Olivia Morello

Olivia Morello is a rising senior interested in IR, international security and the rule of law. This summer, Olivia is interning with the Department of Defense through a Stanford in Government fellowship and preparing to write her honors thesis within the CISAC program. She spoke with us about her work at DoD and her interest in the intersections of history, security and education.

Can you tell us a bit about your internship experience this summer and what sparked your interest in this topic?

This summer, I’m interning through a Stanford in Government fellowship at the Department of Defense’s International Armaments Cooperation office. The office works to enhance US warfighting capabilities and the capabilities of our allies by facilitating collaboration on the research, production, and procurement of defense-related technologies. This is a great opportunity for me to gain firsthand insight into the nuts and bolts of national security policy and to bridge the gap between my coursework and the working world. I found the office’s focus on technology with defense implications especially relevant given my time at Stanford and given the national dialogue around emerging technologies like quantum computing and AI. This internship has provided me incredible opportunities, from preparing talking points for meetings with our foreign partners to even drafting
the bare bones of an agreement!

How did you become interested in international relations, security and defense?

Growing up, I was very fortunate because my parents would take me on all of their
travels. I think this exposure to different cultures at a young age inspired my interest in studying history and learning foreign languages at school. Coming into Stanford, I wanted to spend my freshman year exploring different classes and I ended up taking several international relations courses that I loved. I especially appreciated the flexibility of the IR major, which allowed me to take classes in subjects ranging American foreign policy to art history. Through sampling different courses, I narrowed my studies to specialize in international history and culture and international security. I find myself drawn to international security in particular for two reasons. First, I hope that by studying past conflicts, I can apply the lessons learned from these wars to understand how to avert future wars. Second, I am fascinated by the power of conflict to shape the development and culture of various nations. National security concerns inspire governments to make policies that affect the lives of those not only on the battlefield but also at home, and I find this interplay very interesting.

What are your plans for senior year? Tell us about your Honors thesis through CISAC or interesting research you have planned.

I plan to write my thesis on the relationship between national security concerns and research at American universities. Specifically, I want to examine how best the US government can protect research related to national security from foreign theft while also preserving the academic freedom vital to American leadership in innovation. I was inspired to look at the subject of academic espionage after reading in the news about the arrests of professors like Dr. Charles Lieber, who the US government has accused of hiding his affiliations to Chinese government entities to secure US federal research grants. I think this is a fascinating topic because of its implications for students and faculty at Stanford and I am excited to dive into further researching this subject senior year.