News & Events
ALERT Program

Professor Steve Beaudoin Awarded “Best Presentation” for ALERT Research at Annual AIChe Meeting March 6, 2017

ALERT researcher, Professor Steve Beaudoin of Purdue University was awarded “Best Presentation” in his session for a paper he presented on at the Annual AlChE Meeting in November 2016. The paper was based on his research project that was recently selected as a new ALERT project. The new project, titled “A Novel Method for Evaluating the Adhesion of Explosives Residue,” aims to provide insight into the reasons why explosives residues stick to surfaces and what must be done to effectively detect those residues in air transportation security environments.

The ultimate outcomes of this project include a library documenting the adhesion characteristics of explosives residues of interest against surfaces of interest, coupled with a spreadsheet that will allow members of the community to calculate adhesion forces between explosives and surfaces of interest. The end-users of the information developed by this project will include members of the Homeland Security community who are engaged with developing apparatuses, materials (swabs), and methods for contact sampling.  Specifically, this research will help them to interpret the results of their developmental work and to guide the creation of next-generation materials and methods for detecting explosives residues.

Professor Beaudoin will be presenting the outcomes of this research thus far at the annual Trace Explosives Detection (TED) Workshop in April, 2017.  This presentation will include all of the data collected, as well as a tutorial that illustrates how members of the Homeland Security community can use the data to calculate adhesion forces.

Professor Jose Martinez-Lorenzo Awarded $500K NSF CAREER Award March 6, 2017

ALERT Thrust R3 Project Investigator, Professor Jose Martinez-Lorenzo of Northeastern University was recently awarded a $500K National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award for his work on developing a method for “4D mm-Wave Compressive Sensing and Imaging at One Thousand Volumetric Frames per Second.” Millimeter-wave sensing and imaging systems are generally used for a wide range of applications, such as security monitoring to detect potential threats at the airport and biological imaging for wound diagnosis and healing. Because this is the first four-dimensional millimeter-wave imaging system that can operate in quick-changing scenarios, it will benefit society greatly.

One of the main applications of this system is finding security threats hidden under clothing, inside backpacks, or in public spaces, such as sports arenas. The system can scan multiple people within 26 cubic meters and produce 1000 3D image frames per second. This far surpasses existing millimeter-wave sensing and imaging systems.

Despite the efficiency of this system, there are still some challenges to overcome. This project will look to address these challenges and ideally, the results of this research will establish the scientific basis for the proposed new sensing and imaging systems, by enhancing the imaging performance, reliability, and efficiency while reducing the hardware complexity, overall cost, and energy consumption of the system.

Additionally, Professor Martinez-Lorenzo will develop an educational program that combines classroom learning with research training methods to help students understand the principles and limitations of wave-based imaging. This educational program will also collaborate with the Northeastern University Cooperative Education and Career Development Program to transition students into industry and the Northeastern University Center for STEM Education to provide valuable research experiences for K-12, undergraduate, and underrepresented students, as well as education through online materials and public venues.

ALERT’s Methods to Improve the Detection of Hidden Explosives Wins Patent March 3, 2017

ALERT researchers, Prof. Carey Rappaport and Prof. Jose Martinez-Lorenzo of Northeastern University were awarded a patent for “Signal Processing Methods and Systems for Explosives Detection and Identification Using Electromagnetic Radiation” (U.S. Patent 9,575,045) on February 21, 2017.

This patent is for an algorithm designed to rule out non-explosive concealed foreign objects affixed to the skin (i.e. hidden under clothing). Current security screening systems, such as AIT Millimeter Wave Scanners used at airports to scan passengers, are able to identify items with distinct shapes that are hidden on the body, such as guns and knives. However, explosives are considerably more difficult to identify in this manner, due to the fact that the size and shape of explosives can vary greatly, leading to time-consuming and potentially dangerous security pat-downs to determine if a suspicious object is a security threat, or a wallet that a passenger forgot to place in the bin.

Prof. Rappaport and Prof. Martinez-Lorenzo believe their algorithm, when plugged into existing screening systems, will greatly reduce the number of false alarms, and thus, the number of pat-downs needed, leading to greater accuracy in threat detection and shorter security lines. The improved reliability would benefit many: passengers, airlines, and the Transportation Security Administration; and possibly lead to the expansion of AIT Millimeter Wave Scanners into everyday use, such as railway stations, sporting venues, and other soft targets.

Image caption: Simulation of a human form with explosives slab affixed to chest. 

Professor Rappaport Selected as an IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society Distinguished Lecturer for 2017-2019 February 21, 2017

ALERT Deputy Director and Electrical and Computer Engineering professor, Carey Rappaport of Northeastern University was selected by the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society (AP-S) as a Distinguished Lecturer for 2017-2019. The IEEE AP-S Distinguished Lecturer Program sends experts, the Distinguished Lecturers, to visit active AP-S Chapters around the world and give talks on topics of interest and importance to the Antennas and Propagation community.

Professor Rappaport has been a Northeastern University faculty member since 1987, and has been teaching Electrical and Computer Engineering since July 2000. In 2011, he was appointed as a College of Engineering Distinguished Professor. Professor Rappaport has written over 400 technical journal articles and conference papers on various topics, including electromagnetic wave propagation and scattering computation, microwave antenna design, and bioelectromagnetics. He has also received two reflector antenna patents, two biomedical device patents, and four subsurface sensing device patents.

Professor Rappaport’s Distinguished Lecture topics include:

  • “A High Gain Toroidal Reflector Antenna for Multistatic 3-D Whole Body Millimeter-Wave Imaging”
  • “Multifocal Bootlace Lens Design Concepts”
  • “Modeling Frequency Dependent Biological Tissue for FDTD Analysis Using a Single Pole Z-Transform Conductivity Model”
  • “Localizing Tunnel Positions Under Rough Surfaces with Underground Focused Synthetic Aperture Radar”
  • “Modeling Standoff Radar Scattering of Concealed Body-Worn Objects for Suicide Bomber Detection”
  • “Electromagnetic Sensing and Treatment of Living Things: Using Microwaves to Detect and Treat Disease in Humans and Trees”
  • “Advanced Concepts for Ground Penetrating Radar Detection of Land Mines.”

Congratulations to Professor Rappaport on being selected as an IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society Distinguished Lecturer for 2017-2019!

ALERT and Gordon-CenSSIS Scholars Participate in Presentation Skills Seminar February 10, 2017

On February 1st 2017, the ALERT and Gordon-CenSSIS Scholars participated in a Presentation Skills Seminar. The ALERT and Gordon-CenSSIS Scholars Program is designed to provide freshman engineering students with opportunities to participate in research projects, STEM outreach, and professional development training. At the seminar, the Scholars discussed introductory presentation skills, with a particular focus on PowerPoint. This seminar is one of many regular meetings the Scholars will attend to improve upon their general leadership and research skills.

Job Opportunities at ALERT December 19, 2016

The ALERT DHS Center of Excellence at Northeastern University is currently seeking to fill the following job positions:

 

Administrative Assistant

https://neu.peopleadmin.com/postings/44937

Provide general administrative office support and manage the front desk operations for the Bernard M. Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing & Imaging Systems (Gordon-CenSSIS), ALERT and its affiliates. Greet and assist visitors, answer telephones, respond to inquiries as appropriate. Track and order supplies, maintain filing systems, manage the office calendars and room/equipment reservations, assist with special projects and perform other related duties as assigned. Assist in maintaining Center databases, updating center outputs and personnel lists for annual and periodic reporting requirements, maintain distribution listservs, prepare minutes and correspondence, order supplies and catering, and process travel arrangements. Provide administrative support for the Center Directors, Gordon Center faculty and staff.

 

Postdoctoral Research Associate

https://neu.peopleadmin.com/postings/45842

Performs research in video analytics, with focus in activity recognition and human re-identification. Assists the supervisor in the interpretation and publication of results and grants. Maintains the laboratory and may exercise functional supervision over supporting research staff. Primary responsibility is ensuring that the research is complete. The appointment generally does not extend beyond two years.

 

Web Applications Developer

https://neu.peopleadmin.com/postings/42813

The Web Applications Programmer designs, codes, tests and deploys applications, systems, and new technologies that facilitate and expand the ability of administrative staff, faculty and researchers of Gordon-CenSSIS, ALERT and affiliates to enter, process and access research and administrative data. Application needs include web-based collection and reporting systems for funders, collaborative web-based workspaces for staff and researchers, dynamic access and processing of center and research data, event registration and processing. Existing applications require in-depth knowledge of ASP.NET. All database implementation work will be done on MSSQL.

 

Senior Grants Administrator

https://neu.peopleadmin.com/postings/45584

The Awareness & Localization of Explosive Related Threats Center (ALERT) is seeking a Senior Grant Administrator who will perform work activities in a fast pasted, complex, detailed and multifaceted environment. Responsibilities include ownership and management of multiple complex grants and operating accounts that require accurate and sophisticated interpretation of university, state and federal guidelines. The incumbent provides information that ensures accurate administration of pre-award, post-award, and close-out activities.
This position will assist with pre-award grant submissions and will independently manage post-award grant administration. The responsibilities for this position include participating with preparation of grant applications and progress reports, preparation and execution of sub-awards and contracts, account set-up, expenditure tracking, account reconciliation, revenue and expense projections, purchasing, invoice processing, expenditure reimbursements, prepare all required DHS financial reports, provide monthly reports of the Centers’ expenditures, as well as work closely with all of the Centers’ Directors and faculty to manage and track expenses, monitor accounts for accuracy of charges, identify and manage deadlines, prepare Payroll Distribution Change forms and journal entries when needed.

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.”