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Awards and Achievements

TSA Federal Security Director Michael Young honors ALERT August 28, 2013

On Wednesday, August 28, ALERT researchers and personnel were honored with the presentation of an award by Ohio Transportation Security Administration Federal Security Director, Michael Young for ALERT’s efforts in the Video Analytic Surveillance Transition (VAST) project. The presentation, followed by a luncheon, was also attended by the Northeastern University Senior Vice Provost, Mel Bernstein, the Dean of Northeastern University’s College of Engineering, Nadine Aubry, and TSA Program Analyst, Edward Hertelendy.

ALERT’s VAST project, conducted in partnership with Siemens Corporate Research, TSA and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) is developing video analytics methods at CLE to address existing airport security concerns. As explained by ALERT director Michael Silevitch, “the ability to access real time data from the Cleveland airport enabled the ALERT researchers to test their methods and optimize performance. That, coupled with the collaboration of our industrial partner Siemens, was essential in terms of developing tools that would be of practical use to people in the field.”

TSA Award Presentation to ALERT. From left to right: Michael B. Silevitch, David Castanon, Octavia Camps, Edward Hertelendy, John Beaty, Michael Young, Carey Rappaport.

Taking a moment to recognize the partnership between ALERT and the TSA, Dean Aubry expressed that ALERT is a model center to the College of Engineering. “We are really proud to be able to do user inspired research, but the challenge is to take that research and to apply technology transfer in order to really make an impact on society and the security of our airports, and that’s what you are doing”. In her closing remarks the Dean emphasized the value of the collaboration for both academia and industry.

Senior Vice Provost Bernstein reminded the attendees that the award ALERT was being honored with was not only an award about the outstanding work being done, but also for the commitment to the mission of advancement for the common good. “The model program between ALERT and the Cleveland airport is really quite impressive,” he said. “The fact is that this may not have been the easiest thing to do, but it really speaks to the opportunity, talent, the willingness of the Northeastern side, and the understanding that TSA has to be able to make this kind of investment. This is really what we had hoped would happen in the early days of DHS, and this is one great example”.

Michael Young, while presenting the award to the ALERT team, mentioned the recent successes of the VAST partnership, and the notability of the project through both industry and academia. He briefly explained his history with the ALERT Center of Excellence and noted that this award is really about collaboration. The award states on it, “In recognition of your technological research and innovation in support of TSA-Cleveland in the development of advanced algorithms for CCTV Surveillance Systems”. Director Young then proceeded to present the ALERT team with TSA Challenge Coins to show appreciation and recognize the work and support of each individual team member.

This award reflects ALERT’s ability to make a positive impact on critical problems faced by the Homeland Security Enterprise. ALERT looks forward to continuing this valuable partnership with the Transportation Security Administration through years to come.


Banner and Side Bar Photo Credit: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo

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

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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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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.

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!!!

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ALERT Researcher Jose Martinez is awarded the Best Paper Award at HST ‘12 November 20, 2012

Assistant Professor Jose Martinez was awarded the Best Paper Award at the 2012 IEEE Conference on Technologies for Homeland Security (HST ’12).  The award was given for his paper entitled,  “A Compressed Sensing Approach for Detection of Explosive Threats at Standoff Distances using a Passive Array of Scatters”.

The twelfth annual IEEE Conference on Technologies for Homeland Security (HST ’12), was held 13-15 November 2012 in Greater Boston, Massachusetts. This year’s conference showcased selected technical papers and posters highlighting emerging technologies in the areas of:

  • Cyber Security,
  • Attack and Disaster Preparation, Recovery, and Response,
  • Land and Maritime Border Security
  • Biometrics & Forensics.

The conference brought together innovators from leading universities, research laboratories, Homeland Security Centers of Excellence, small businesses, system integrators and the end user community and provided a forum to discuss ideas, concepts and experimental results.

ALERT, Square One partnership leads to NSF Small Business award August 6, 2012

ALERT researchers at Northeastern University partnered with Square One Systems Design to win a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center – Small Business award in the area of automated landmine detection.  This promising partnership leverages the strengths of academic and industry experts for a project with broad humanitarian and research potential

The partnership involves pairing Square One’s Walking Tri-Sphere (WTS) robot with ALERT’s Ground-Penetrating Radar solution. The WTS robot has the ability to autonomously negotiate rugged terrain, making it well suited for operating in a buried explosives environment, but object detection was a missing critical component.  ALERT deputy director Carey Rappaport and researcher Jose Martinez are leading the Northeastern team in developing an effective and inexpensive Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR) solution. If successful, the combined GPR-WTS system will enhance automated characterization of subsurface environments.

Current methods of demining involve slow and dangerous manual probing, or use very expensive and often delicate advanced technology.  Square One and ALERT hope that this partnership will blaze a path toward fully automated demining operations and serve as a jumping off point to other significant subsurface characterizations.

In addition to the humanitarian benefits, this partnership creates a wealth of opportunities for student participation. Graduate and undergraduate students at Northeastern are actively involved in this cutting-edge design project, participating in computational modeling, reconstruction algorithm development, and antenna design and testing aspects.

Northeastern Ph. D. student Margery Hines, working with Carey Rappaport, won judges’ choice in the 2012 National NSF IGERT Online Video & Poster competition for her presentation of a computational study that demonstrated an ability to locate both metallic and non-metallic anti-personnel landmines.



Gordon-CenSSIS Student awarded judges choice award in IGERT video competition June 6, 2012

Margery Hines, Gordon-CenSSIS PhD candidate, has created an online video describing her mine detection research for submission in NSF IGERT.ORG’s 2012 Video & Poster Competition.

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Northeastern Students Capture 1st Place and $10,000 prize in 6th Annual National Security Innovation Competition May 7, 2012

Northeastern captured the top prize of $10,000 for their entry “Next Generation Millimeter-Wave Body Imaging for Concealed Threat Detection” in the 2012 National Security Innovation Competition (NSIC) held at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS).

Northeastern’s team consisted of ALERT graduate students Galia Ghazi, Luis Tirado, Kathryn Williams, and Spiros Mantzavinos with Professors Carey Rappaport and José A. Martinez-Lorenzo advising the team. Their project beat 39 other schools nationwide for the top prize.

The competition was among ten finalist teams from schools across the country and Canada, including USMA West Point who brought home the second place prize of $5,000, and the University of Calgary and UCCS, who won 3rd and 4th place, respectively.

The competition was judged by a panel of seven judges from government and industry that included representatives from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Counter Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO), Boeing Phantom Works, Paladin Capital Group, Popular Science Magazine, and Dorsey & Whitney LLP.

The purpose of the NSIC is to stimulate college student interest in addressing issues of national security by exposing their university-sponsored projects to a broad audience of industry, academic, and government organizations involved in aerospace, defense, security, and first responder activities.

Website for the NSIC competition


NSF CAREER Grant Awarded to ALERT Researcher March 15, 2012

NSF has awarded ALERT Researcher, Prof. Ashkan Vaziri the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program award. This will be carried out by developing predictive theoretical and computational methods to understand the mechanical deformation of biomimetic systems and by performing detailed experiments at the micro and nano- scale.

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