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ALERT Program

Student Spotlight: Christian Sorensen November 1, 2016

Christian Sorensen, a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University, is our newest participant in the ALERT DHS HS-STEM (Homeland Security Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Science and Engineering Workforce Development Program (SEWDP).  Christian began his graduate program at Purdue this fall, and is working with ALERT researcher, Prof. Steven Son. His research project is focused on how to better predict the threat of characterized ammonium nitrate-based homemade explosives.  When asked what he is most passionate about when it comes to his research, he stated, “I’m interested in the aspects that lead to tools or procedures for public safety, while also gaining the knowledge base necessary to study future threats and provide expert technical knowledge about current explosive hazards.”

Christian’s involvement in Homeland Security began when he served as a Team Leader of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) in the U.S. Air Force, where he gained first-hand experience of explosives threats. After leaving active military duty, he then went on to attend the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NMT), to obtain a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering with the Highest Honors in 2015. After graduating, Christian worked as a post-baccalaureate research assistant at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), where he eventually taught military EOD technicians various explosives detection techniques through LANL’s Advanced Home Made Explosives course.

Of his experience working with Christian so far, Prof. Son expressed that, “Typically graduate students that join my group have very little experience with explosives.  However, Christian comes to our group with many years of experience in the Air Force, as well as a year of research experience at Los Alamos National Laboratory.  His experience is proving to be to be a great benefit to our group.  For example, he did a demonstration for my energetic materials combustion class based on what he learned at Los Alamos teaching first responders. We expect great things from Christian and very much appreciate his ALERT support.”

As for his future plans to work within the Department of Homeland Security enterprise, he would like to return to LANL to work on high explosive science with an emphasis on better understanding ‘non-standard’ explosives (i.e. those not used by the military or in the commercial sector), and says he would also like to reprise his teaching role for military EOD technicians.

ALERT Receives Funding for Strategic Initiatives November 1, 2016

The ALERT Center of Excellence at Northeastern University has received additional funding from the Department of Homeland Security for the following  projects:

  • A project entitled Research and Development of Systems for Tracking Passengers and Divested Items at the Checkpoint, also known by its acronym CLASP (Correlating Luggage and Specific Passengers), which will address tracking passengers and divested items at the checkpoint.
  • In collaboration with the Center for Visualization at Data Analytics (CVADA), ALERT received funding to continue the development of a Video Be on the Lookout (vBOLO) system to help re-identify subjects of interest as they re-appear in a surveillance system.
  • ALERT also received funding for Adaptive Automatic Target Recognition for CT-Based Object Detection Systems, otherwise known as AATR. The researchers involved with this project will develop adaptive automated target recognition (ATR) algorithms for CT-based explosive detection systems (EDS) for inspection of divested items at the checkpoint and checked luggage. The focus will be on adaptive ATR (AATR) algorithms that can be configured in the field to add new targets after deployment without having to retrain and retest the ATR.
Photo caption: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s initial Airport Security Area Testbed serves as the foundation for the CLASP research effort.

ALERT / Gordon-CENSSIS Scholar Application Reminder September 19, 2016

The ALERT / Gordon-CENSSIS Scholar Application deadline is quickly approaching. All applications are due by Wednesday, September 28th. The program will run from October 2016 – April 2017.

The ALERT and Gordon-CenSSIS Scholars Program is designed to provide freshmen engineering students the opportunity to get involved in ALERT and Gordon-CenSSIS research projects, K-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) outreach programs, and professional development training and seminars, such as Leadership Skills, Research Ethics, and Presentation and Poster Building Skills.

Visit the General Information Page for more about the Scholars Program.

The Application Form can be downloaded here: Application Form.

Submit applications to Melanie Smith via email to m.smith@northeastern.edu. Please use the subject line: “ALERT and Gordon-CenSSIS Scholars Application Submission.”

Student Spotlight: Matthew Tivnan August 29, 2016

Matthew Tivnan, a senior undergraduate in Electrical Engineering and Physics at Northeastern University, is our first undergraduate student to participate in the ALERT DHS HS-STEM (Homeland Security Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Science and Engineering Workforce Development Program (SEWDP).

The Science and Engineering Workforce Development Program was previously known as the Career Development Program (CDP), and was established in 2011 with a grant to Northeastern University from the Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate. In 2015 the program was expanded, and now awards fellowships to full-time students pursuing BS, MS or PhD degrees related to ALERT’s research. After completing their degree and other program requirements, graduates are required to obtain paid employment within the Homeland Security Enterprise for at least one year.

During his time at Northeastern, Matt has worked with Prof. Carey Rappaport on a project focused on the Microwave Radar Imaging in Biological Tissue, which can be used to detect surgically implanted explosives and breast cancer tumors. By studying the scattering of electromagnetic waves in biological tissues he designs advanced imaging algorithms for the detection and localization of dangerous targets.

Although he applied to Northeastern with the intent of studying music, Matt quickly changed majors to Electrical Engineering, and began working with Prof. Rappaport his freshmen year when he participated in the ALERT and Gordon-CenSSIS Scholars Program.  His involvement since has only increased, as he became a summer REU participant, an ALERT and Gordon-CenSSIS Mentor, and is now part of the SEWDP.  Last spring, Matt spent his co-op working for Photodiagnostic Systems Inc. (PDSI), a Massachusetts-based company founded and chaired by Bernard M. Gordon, which makes advanced imaging systems for medical and security applications. As an Apprentice Imaging Engineer, he spent his time there working on PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scatter correction algorithms, wrote a 2D projection algorithm using 3D CT (Computed Tomography) data, designed a 3D dynamic balancing procedure for a rotating CT disk, and helped build several CT scanners from the ground up.

When asked how his co-op experience shaped his career goals and what his plans are for the near future, he says, “At PDSI, I learned about a great option for a career I would really enjoy. I’m planning to take a year after I graduate in May 2017 to work in industry, and am looking for a position where I can work on advanced imaging technology. After that, I’m hoping to continue on to graduate school.”

ALERT REUs Present Summer Research August 29, 2016

This summer, ALERT hosted three undergraduate students at Northeastern University to participate in a 10-week Research Experience for Undergraduates program. The ALERT REU program at NEU is partnered with other REU programs in the university’s College of Engineering, and builds a cohort of motivated students who attend professional development meetings and program activities, including presentations on Research Ethics, Lab Safety, PowerPoint Presentation Skills and Scientific Storytelling. At the end of the summer, each REU gives a final presentation of their research project. The presentation addresses the project’s overall mission and endeavors, the REU’s specific contributions to the project, as well as what knowledge and skills they gained through the process. This year’s students worked on projects related to ALERT’s Bulk Sensors & Sensor Systems research.

REU Anthony Bisulco (’18) is a third year NU student who worked with Professor Jose Martinez-Lorenzo on ALERT’s Rapid Security Threat Detection via MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) Millimeter Wave Imaging project.

In his words, “The main purpose of my REU project is to improve the overall passenger experience during the airport security screening process. Currently, this process is plaqued with many downfalls such as slow throughput, frequent false alarms and significant passenger divestment and recollection. The working goal of the project I am working on is to improve this process by creating ‘On the Move Screening’ where passengers walk at a normal pace through what appears to be a tunnel without the need to divest any clothing or personal items.”

Anthony’s project worked to increase the image quality of a 3D imaging millimeter wave radar (“Tunnel System”) with the goal of improving the system’s threat detection capability. “One part of this radar is various transmitters/receivers which illuminate/receiver the target (Human Torso) at various angles. As a result of adding transmitters/receivers the image quality is increased. Rather than adding multiple transmitters or receivers, my project added microwave switches to the system, which is the equivalent of adding more transmitters and receivers for imaging. Overall, I mainly designed the system for controlling these switches and developed some algorithms for optimizing the best imaging positions.”

Spencer Pozder (‘19) and Justin Xia (‘19) worked with Professor Carey Rappaport on Feasibility Investigations in Multistatic Imaging Techniques for their Research Experience. Currently, active millimeter wave radar is used for imaging objects concealed on the human body at airport security checkpoints. The current monostatic configurations are unable to accurately image objects at certain angles, give lower resolution, cost more, trigger more false alarms and have longer execution times. ALERT is interested in a multistatic configuration in an “On the Move” scanning system, capable of receiving image information from multiple angles in parallel, possibly increasing resolution and accuracy of the images produced.

The team developed a product using hardware from ALERT Industrial Partners, Rapiscan and Analog Devices, creating a functional system and imaging algorithm capable of reconstructing images. They also redesigned and relocated transmitter and receiver boards to accommodate the optimized system configuration and designed mechanical structure for holding transmitters and receivers. The “On the Move” system is currently being prototyped and patented.

In addition to this program, ALERT partner universities, including the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez and Notre Dame, also hosted summer REU participants in their labs.

The REU program is hosted and sponsored by the Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, and the Bernard M. Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems (Gordon-CenSSIS), a Graduated National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center.

ALERT Featured in DHS Science & Technology Newsroom August 29, 2016

The ALERT Center of Excellence works closely with industry partners like Detectachem and first responders to develop technologies and algorithms to enhance the ability to eliminate illicit explosives.

This month, ALERT was featured in the DHS S&T’s Responder Newsroom highlighting its improvement of explosives training solutions for first responders. The feature showcases ALERT’s work with K-9 explosive detection training aids (TEAS).

REMINDER: White Paper Submissions Due 7/1/2016 June 30, 2016

REMINDER: ALERT White Papers are due TOMORROW. Submissions will be accepted until July 1, 2016, 11:59pm local time.

Pursuant to the goals of DHS Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate, Office of University Programs (OUP), the ALERT Center of Excellence (COE) is accepting white paper submissions for research and transition projects in 2016 and beyond. The COE seeks end-user focused projects that conduct transformational research, develop technology, and provide educational development to improve effective characterization, detection, mitigation and response to explosives-related threats facing the country and the world.

This call will consider white papers for projects ranging from fundamental research through transition to the security enterprise (government, private sector). Submissions must document the problem, describe the gaps that exist, and how their project will address the gaps to protect the public from explosives-related threats. ALERT plans to fund approximately four awards for up to two years at $60,000 to $100,000 per year.

The Call for White Papers is available here: http://www.northeastern.edu/alert/?p=4738.

Any questions should be directed to alert-coe@neu.edu.

Feel free to forward this announcement to others.

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ALERT 2016-2017 Call for White Papers June 2, 2016

White Papers are due by July 1, 2016, 11:59pm local time.

Pursuant to the goals of DHS Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate, Office of University Programs (OUP), the ALERT Center of Excellence (COE) is accepting white paper submissions for research and transition projects in 2016 and beyond. The COE seeks end-user focused projects that conduct transformational research, develop technology, and provide educational development to improve effective characterization, detection, mitigation and response to explosives-related threats facing the country and the world.

This call will consider white papers for projects ranging from fundamental research through transition to the security enterprise (government, private sector). Submissions must document the problem, describe the gaps that exist, and how their project will address the gaps to protect the public from explosives-related threats. ALERT plans to fund approximately four awards for up to two years at $60,000 to $100,000 per year.

The Call for White Papers is available here: http://www.northeastern.edu/alert/?p=4738.

Any questions should be directed to alert-coe@neu.edu.

Feel free to forward this announcement to others.

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5/19 – DHS S&T Center of Excellence Technology Showcase May 9, 2016

Registration is open!

Date: May 19, 2016
Time: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location: Washington, DC

The DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Office of University Programs and Stevens Institute of Technology invite you to attend the Spring 2016 Centers of Excellence(COE) Technology Showcase May 19, 2016 open 9:00 am- 4:00 pm. ​

Explore tools and technology or talk to experts in:
Border SecurityExplosives Detection  – Risk and Economic AnalysisNatural HazardsData & Visual AnalyticsFood DefenseTerrorism StudiesAnimal Disease DefenseMaritime and Arctic SecurityCritical Infrastructure Resilience – Training Opportunities – Hosting Interns – Working with the COEs

  • Experience demonstrations of COE tools, technologies, knowledge products
  • Connect with university experts (one-on-one if desired) to discuss pressing challenges
  • Develop new collaborations to support homeland security missions
  • Meet the newest COEs focused on Arctic security; critical infrastructure resilience; and borders, trade and immigration
  • Learn how to bring interns and professional development opportunities to your office

See the list of analytical tools that will be showcased on the registration website.

This event is free and open to the public. Please feel free to forward this invitation.

Hosted by Stevens Institute of Technology
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
Suite G-17
1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20004

Centers of Excellence are a DHS Science and Technology Directorate program managed by the Office of University Programs.

For more information on COEs, visit the Virtual Showcase or email universityprograms@hq.dhs.gov.

If the registration link above does not work for you, try copying and pasting this into your browser:

http://www.cvent.com/d/rfqdxv

Northeastern News spotlights ALERT research in Airport Security Technologies April 28, 2016

FUTURE OF AIRPORT SECURITY – Northeastern News, 4/28/2016

According to the International Air Transport Association, about 8 million travelers make their way through airports around the world each day. Traditional security requires passengers to stand still while being screened, but Northeastern researchers are developing cutting-edge technology that can detect suspicious behavior—even when passengers are on the move…

Profs. Camps, Martinez, Radke, Rappaport, and Sznaier’s work is featured in this dynamic video story.

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