News & Events
ALERT Program

Northeastern University Selected to Lead Renewed Explosives Research Center of Excellence August 14, 2013

DHS S&T Press Office – Press Release, August 14, 2012

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate announced today the selection of Northeastern University’s Center for Awareness and Location of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) to lead a renewed DHS Center of Excellence (COE) for Explosives Research.  S&T will provide ALERT with a $2.5 million grant for the first of five years.

“ALERT already has contributed substantially to the security of the United States through a top-notch explosives research and education program,” said Matthew Clark, Director of S&T’s Office of University Programs (OUP), which manages the COE system.  “ALERT meets DHS’s high standards for scientific quality, and demonstrates readiness and ability to engage with DHS to solve real-world security problems.”

S&T selected the Northeastern-led team through an open call for proposals and a rigorous competitive process, marking the second time Northeastern and its partners have won this distinction.  Under the leadership of Northeastern and the University of Rhode Island, the new ALERT COE will expand efforts initiated in 2008 by the existing Center.  The renewed ALERT will collaborate with DHS S&T, DHS operational components, industrial partners, and other COEs to help the United States detect and defeat explosives threats.  ALERT will also develop relevant educational curricula for both university students and mid-career professionals.

The DHS COEs were established by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to be a “coordinated, university-based system to enhance the Nation’s homeland security.”  S&T’s COEs are a well-integrated network of researchers focused on specific high-priority DHS challenges and   work directly with DHS operational agencies to solve complex and difficult security problems.

For more information about OUP and the COEs, please visit www.dhs.gov/st-oup.

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Summer REU Program is underway at ALERT July 23, 2013

The ALERT Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) 2013 summer program is currently hosting 9 exceptional undergraduate students at Northeastern University, and ALERT partner institutions.  Prof. Carey Rappaport, Prof. Jose Martinez-Lorenzo, and Mr. Richard Moore, are working with the five ALERT REU students at Northeastern University.  Two students are working with Profs. Brandon Weeks and Louisa Hope-Weeks at Texas Tech University, and two students are working with Prof. Samuel Hernandez at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez.

The summer program, which runs for 10-weeks from June 3rd – August 9th , provides students with full-time work experience on ALERT research, as well as meetings and activities geared to enhance professional development.  A few of the students working at NEU begin their involvement in ALERT research through the ALERT Scholars program, which provides freshmen undergraduates an introduction and gateway to engineering research on campus during the spring semester.

Rachel Shaffer, an REU student working with Mr. Moore, began her work with him on Video Analytics through the spring 2013 ALERT Scholars program.  She has become an integral part of his research team, and provided a demonstrated of some of their work during TSA Administrator, John Pistole’s lab visit on June 12th.

At the end of the program, the REU students will give presentations on their research projects.  Students at Texas Tech University and University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez will present to the group online on August 6th, and Northeastern University students will present on August 8th from 9:00am – 1:00pm EST in room 378 in 140 The Fenway.

Washington State University ALERT Researcher, Prof. Choong-Shik Yoo, and his Team Find Unexpected Superconductor July 18, 2013

Prof. Choong-Shik Yoo, an ALERT researcher at Washington State University, and his team have found superconductivity in solid carbon disulfide, a compound that can be used as a chemical solvent when in it’s a liquid form.

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Prof. Carey Rappaport Highlighted on Northeastern University’s Website for ALERT Airport Security Research July 18, 2013

Prof. Carey Rappaport and his ALERT research team were highlighted on Northeastern University’s webiste, in a section titled “Making Tomorrow Happen,” for their research in airport security. To learn more and read the article, visit NEU’s website:

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ALERT 101 is Back! July 17, 2013

ALERT 101: Video Analytics

We are pleased to present the second installment of ALERT 101. This segment’s topic is Video Analytics. ALERT researchers Richard Radke, Octavia Camps, and Venkatesh Saligrama explain what it is, how it’s used, and how they teach computers how to see and learn.

For users without YouTube access: ALERT 101: Video Analytics


This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under Award(s) 2008-ST-061-ED0001 and/or 2008-ST-061-ED0002. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies, either expressed or implied of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Inspired by the success of TED (www.ted.com) and other educational media forums, ALERT has developed the ALERT 101 video series. Each video short features different technologies and research areas that the ALERT Center engages in. We hope that these productions help educate and inform the global community on these topics in an accessible and enjoyable way.

ALERT hosts TSA Administrator, John Pistole and Boston Air Security Officials at NEU June 18, 2013

On June 12th, 2013, the ALERT Center at Northeastern University hosted a visit by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator, John Pistole, along with acting Boston Field Office Supervisory Air Marshal, David Brown, Boston Logan International Airport Federal Security Director, George Naccara and Kenneth Fletcher, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Administrator at TSA.

The visit was led by the Deputy Director of ALERT, Professor Carey M. Rappaport and included a tour of the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) lab where a group of 20 undergraduate and graduate students participated in demonstrations of ALERT research projects, including Multistatic Millimeter-Wave AIT scanning and Real-Time High-Value 3D External Surface Imaging using the X-Box Kinect sensor.

Prof. Carey Rappaport demonstrates radar technologies to Administrator Pistole

Professor Rappaport also presented his Standoff Detection Experiment, which uses a powerful millimeter-wave radar unit to detect threats from a distance, such as concealed body-worn explosives.

The tour continued in the Video Analytics Lab run by ALERT Professors Octavia Camps and Mario Sznaier. Using cameras and monitors, Professors Camps and Sznaier, along with their students, staged the lab to look like an airport exit lane, and asked Administrator Pistole and his associates to participate in a demonstration of the lab’s Video Analytic Surveillance Transition (VAST)software. The demonstration showed how their software flags “counter-flow” activity, by detecting people who walk “in” through an “exit” lane, thereby alerting security personnel if a person attempted to bypass a TSA checkpoint. Similar software is used for identifying left objects, which was demonstrated by the team when another program flagged a backpack which was left on the ground by a student walking through a crowd.

The visit was an excellent opportunity to present both ALERT research, and other security research that is being done at Northeastern University to Administrator Pistole and his group.

Administrator Pistole demos NEU's VAST software

ALERT and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Receive $750,000 DARPA Award May 16, 2013

ALERT and Los Alamos National Laboratory have received a $750,000 DARPA award for their partnership in Nuclear Magnetic Quadrupole Resonance research. Their proposal was submitted and accepted for the Methods for Explosive Detection at Standoff (MEDS) program. This project will be led by Prof. Carey Rappaport, the Principal Investigator from Northeastern University, and partner lead, Michelle Espy, from LANL.

ALERT Co-Director Provides Insight on Marathon Bombing Devices April 20, 2013

ALERT Co-Director Jimmie Oxley speaks with Rhode Island News Team 10 about the type of explosive devices used in the Boston Marathon Bombings.

Pressure cooker bombs, like the ones reportedly used in the explosions near the finish line at the Boston Marathon, are a common and simple way to make an explosive device, according to a University of Rhode Island chemistry professor.

“It only takes a small amount of black powder to ignite a powerful blast,” said Jimmie Oxley, who also is a member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center for Excellence for Explosives, Detection, Mitigation and Response.

She said if you put it inside a common kitchen pressure cooker, you’ll have a weapon. The steel container will make fragments which are what do the most damage.

“If you feel the sharpness of those edges, if that hits you, you can see why it takes off an arm. If it was a pressure cooker, it would create frag,” Oxley said.

Oxley said of all terrorist weapons, a homemade bomb is the most accessible…

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2013 ALERT REU Summer Program Now Accepting Applications January 16, 2013

We are accepting applications for the upcoming ALERT REU Program. The 10-week paid summer program offers undergraduate engineers the opportunity to engage in ALERT research with faculty members located at Northeastern University in Boston, Texas Tech University in Lubbock, and the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez. The application deadline is February 22, 2013. For more information, and to apply, visit the REU webpage.

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Follow-on Funding Awarded to Dr. Conrad Jones January 16, 2013

Dr. Conrad Jones, a faculty member at Southern University, was awarded $50,000 of follow-on funding through the DHS Summer Research Team Program for MSIs. Dr. Jones was originally chosen to participate in the program during the summer of 2012 to work on ALERT research with Profs. Louisa Hope-Weeks and Brandon Weeks at Texas Tech University.

At the end of the summer, faculty participants are encouraged to apply for up to $50,000 in follow-on funding to continue the research collaboration at their home academic institutions during the following academic year.

Congratulations Dr. Jones!!!

(Photo Source: http://www.orau.gov/dhseducation/index.html)