College towns across the United States are unique in their structure in that there is both community between the town and the university, and a great sense of distance. After all, not everybody works at the university or attends school there – what connection do they have to the university, or the university to them? How can these two groups communicate to each other in meaningful ways?

Research on Tap, a monthly event started by the OSU Division of the Vice President for Research, is perhaps one answer to these questions. Held at the Iron Monk Brewery in downtown Stillwater, each of these events features a different researcher from OSU, who presents their work to the community. It is a time for communication and connection in a friendly and informal environment –a space where anyone from any field can have a beer, ask questions, and engage. 

Dr. Miriam McGaugh, who will be presenting her own research on Monday, says that Research on Tap is an effective way to build connections within the Stillwater community because it gives everyone a chance to see what actually happens within the buildings and offices of OSU’s campus. McGaugh works in the School of Marketing and International Business at OSU, and will present her research on approaching sex trafficking as a public health issue.

Although public health issues and human trafficking may seem unrelated, McGaugh’s research explores how using public health theories may actually help provide new solutions. In the public health field, there is what is known as the “epidemiological triangle,” which include the factors (agent, host, and environment) that contribute to the spread of disease – when one of these factors is disrupted or eliminated, it can stop the spread. In laymen’s terms, McGaugh’s research applies this theory to think about the ways disrupting one contributing factor of sex trafficking might help to prevent it.

In particular, this project, which has been underway for over a year now, analyzes the environment that allows sex trafficking to thrive and seeks to disrupt it. Right now, for McGaugh and her team, which includes Graduate students and other professors, this involves enormous amounts of data collection and analysis of ads on the internet, which is where a lot of sex trafficking is initiated. This project, McGaugh says, is a long term one and it may take years before they have the desired end-goal: a database to help law enforcement and intervention groups identify traffickers and their victims. 

For those who attend Research on Tap this Monday, McGaugh says she hopes that they will be able to see how much they truly want to help people. 

“I just want people to know that we’re not all about making money in the Business Department. That we really do try to help people...we bring in this public health theory, we bring in these public policy theories, we bring in these marketing theories, and we use those all inside of these big data techniques that maybe really hasn’t been done too much.” McGaugh says. 

McGaugh’s presentation will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, and will be followed by a Q and A session for anyone who is interested.