News & Events
DHS COE News

ALERT MSI Collaborations Work to Build a Diverse Homeland Security Workforce June 28, 2016

This summer, ALERT Collaborator, Prof. Joaquin Aparcio- Bolanos is continuing his work on a project initiated through the DHS Summer Research Team (SRT) Program, which seeks to engage faculty, undergraduate and graduate students in research that provides opportunities to better understand the mission and research needs of DHS. Prof. Aparicio-Bolanos received $50,000 in follow-on funding from DHS to continue his research with Prof. Samuel Hernandez at the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, related to ““Traces and Detection Limit of RDX, PETN, and AN in Synthetic Skin by Quantum Cascade Laser Based Spectroscopy (HEMs-SYNTH-HS).”

ALERT Research Thrust Leader, Prof. Jimmie Oxley of the University of Rhode Island, is also hosting a new DHS SRT group this summer led by Dr. Sayavur Bakhtiyarov from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. They are working on a project titled, “A Complex Variable Method to Predict an Aerodynamics Arbitrary Shape Debris.”

The DHS Office of University Programs sponsors initiatives through the Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) program which are designed to build a cadre of university students and faculty who are well-qualified, diverse and ready to enter the homeland security science and engineering workforce. ALERT has collaborated with MSI institutions many times over the past 8 years through both the DHS Summer Research Team Program for MSIs and the DHS Scientific Leadership Award Program, which are closely linked with the DHS Centers of Excellence (COEs).

Another aspect of this initiative is the DHS Scientific Leadership Award Program, which helps develop enduring homeland security science and engineering research and education programs at MSIs by supporting the development of homeland security science and engineering teaching initiatives, curriculum development and scholarships. In 2014, Prof.. Aschalew Kassu of Alabama A&M University received this award to work with ALERT Research Thrust Leader, Prof. Steve Beaudoin of Purdue and ALERT Education Director, Prof. Steve McKnight of Northeastern on Dr. Kassu’s program titled, “Developing HS-STEM Workforce through Education & Research Emphasis on Explosives Detection Techniques.”

[Photo caption: Prof. Joaquin Aparcio-Bolanos, center]

ALERT Demos Tech at Centers of Excellence Technology Showcase June 28, 2016

On May 19th, ALERT brought its advances in explosives detection research to the 2016 Centers of Excellence Technology Showcase in Washington D.C. The day featured “Chat with an Expert” sessions, informational tables for each center, information on training opportunities, and live demonstrations. The Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate, Office of University Programs hosted the showcase at the Ronald Regan Building in Washington D.C. for over 250 government agencies and first responders.

Prof. Jimmie Oxley was on hand for the day for the “Chat with an Expert” sessions which allowed participants to have 10 minutes of one-on-one time with each expert to discuss specific technologies, center research or opportunities for partnership. Prof. Oxley also led ALERT’s live demo of the day – Trace Explosives Aids for Scent (TEAS).

Prof. Oxley’s research team developed a method of polymer encapsulation that is used to create safe trace explosives sources. Their research results show that Polycarbonate microspheres containing only a low percentage of Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP) last for years, yet produce pure TATP vapor when heated at the designated program rate. Although they contain small amounts of actual explosives material, these TEAS are called pseudo-explosives because they have no potential to explode, thus providing users with safe access to stored hazardous explosives at trace levels.

Currently, 29 groups have tested prototypes of ALERT’s training aids, including NY MTA Police, MA State Police, Toronto Police, and industry collaborators such as K-9 Search On Site, and FLIR Systems, Inc.

Travis_DetectaChemALERT

“Travis Kisner, Director of Engineering from Detectachem, talks about the microsphere heater Detectachem developed for use with ALERT’s Trace Explosives Aids for Scent(TEAS)”

The Live Demo

Officer William Qualls and his K-9 partner, Nate, demonstrated how they use TEAS in the field by having attendees hide one of the activated TEAS somewhere in the Showcase space and then Nate worked to find it. Travis Kisner, Director of Engineering from Detectachem, presented the microsphere heater Detectachem developed for use with ALERT’s TEAS. One of Prof. Oxley’s graduate students who worked on the development of TEAS was also on hand for the live demonstration to explain the science behind the tool.

ALERT’s Research and Networking with End Users

The ALERT team of Industry Liaison Emel Bulat and Director of Computer Services, Deanna Beirne presented ALERT technologies and center capabilities to the broad showcase audience. Center tools like VAST, PIMS and MVCTC were highlighted by the team and were of great interest to the participants. Videos and Fact Sheets for each tool were also on display.

The event resulted in dozens of connections for the center and a better understanding of what challenges end users like U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and the Transportation Security Administration are facing. ALERT is looking forward to furthering our linkages with end users and providing solutions to those challenges in our areas of expertise.

[Photo caption: Using ALERT’s Trace Explosives Aids for Scent(TEAS), Officer William Qualls interacts with his K-9 partner Nate as he identifies a bag containing TEAS. Nate sits by the location where he detects explosives.]

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

DHS Funds Contact Sampling Task Order February 22, 2016

The ALERT Center of Excellence has been awarded a $1.2 million dollar task order contract from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the creation of standardized procedures and methods to measure the efficiency and performance of contact sampling for trace explosives detection.

Contact sampling refers to the sampling, or “swabbing” of individuals, baggage, and cargo conducted by security personnel for the purpose of gathering trace explosives. Trace explosives are the non-visible, or “trace” amounts of particulates from materials used to make explosives. When properly detected, the presence of these particulates alert security personnel to potential explosives-related threats.

The task order, known as the Contact Sampling Task Order, came out of the Trace Explosives Sampling for Security Applications (TESSA) workshop series hosted by ALERT, and led by Professor Stephen Beaudoin of Purdue University. TESSA01 (August 2014) and TESSA02 (August 2015) brought together members of the trace explosives detection community in order to support the DHS objective of improving the performance of existing technologies within the security enterprise.

The trace explosives detection community relies heavily on contact sampling as a tool for aviation security and other non-aviation detection of explosives devices and identification of individuals who may have created or handled explosives. There is a desire within the community to unify current understanding of the mechanisms of contact sampling and to establish international standards for quantitative procedures and methods to measure surface sampling efficiency, baseline commercial off the shelf (COTS) systems and next generation sampling media.

This standardization will benefit the DHS Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and other federal, state, and local agencies tasked with detecting trace explosives, because it will help them identify the essential aspects of contact sampling that influence the effectiveness of their sampling protocols. The members of the trace explosives detection community will also benefit from this task order, as they will have access to a critical review of the state of the art technologies, materials, and protocols used in the contact sampling of explosives.

Photo caption: Low-resolution SEM image of freestanding micro-patterned traps used during contact sampling

DHS S&T hosts “The Nose Knows” Twitter Chat 12/17, 12pm December 17, 2015

Join the “The Nose Knows” Thursday December 17th at noon EST. Tune in and chat about improving canine explosives detection.

The Nose Knows: The Science of Threat Detection Canines

Did you know  dogs’ noses are a million times more sensitive than a human’s nose? Dogs can be trained to detect a wide variety of specific scents, such as drugs, fruits, and explosives and are trained to alert their handlers to the presence of these hazardous items by pawing, barking or, in the case of something dangerous, sitting or lying quietly.

Canines have been used by law enforcement agencies for decades to alert their handlers to threats or objects of interest. The Department of Homeland Security  (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Canine Program is working with DHS partners, including the Transportation Security Administration, other federal agencies, and state and local first responders to provide independent verification of canine teams’ performance, as well as ways to enhance overall detection capability…

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ALERT Students Received Top Award at URI’s Internet of Things Hackathon November 30, 2015

On Friday, November 13th, 2015, students at the “Internet of Things Hackathon,” at URI were divided into teams, assigned a problem to solve with modern technologies, and given the rest of the weekend to compete for the top prize. Three students from ALERT were teamed up to develop an idea for a product that could locate radiation sources in real time and help determine the exact location of a biological weapon. The team, comprised of Anthony Bisulco, a sophomore at Northeastern University, Darby Hoss, a graduate student from Purdue University, and Amanda Figueroa, a senior from the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, created a prototype of a system that determined the location of the radiation source based on measurements from remote, wearable sensors.

On Sunday, November 15th, the teams proposed their ideas to a panel of judges, which included representatives from Slater Technology Fund, the state Commerce Corporation, and URI faculty. The ALERT team received the Judges Award, the top award at the event, for their ability to develop a solution to a real-world problem, while also considering plans for production and intellectual property protection.  An article published in the Providence Journal (image above), highlighted the winning team, and described the event as “a bit like the TV show ‘Shark Tank’ where budding entrepreneurs pitch their inventions to a panel, and hope someone wants to invest.”
Congratulations, Amanda, Anthony, and Darby!!!

Naval Academy Midshipmen Participate in ALERT Research July 1, 2015

Annapolis Naval Academy Midshipmen, Andrew Kelly and Gabe Lackey, are spending a month this summer doing ALERT research at the University of Rhode Island (URI), in Kingston, RI. Andrew and Gabe are Systems Engineering majors and have elected to use this time to work with the URI Energetic Materials Research Group. Their work includes hands-on experience with a myriad of aspects of explosives research at both the laboratory scale and in the field. Projects include using various instruments for physical characterization of both military explosives and homemade/improvised energetic materials.

Midshipman Lackey (pictured, middle) has said of his experiences,

“It has been very interesting to see the ‘behind the scenes’ process that takes an idea and eventually lets it reach the front lines, helping sailors, marines, and all military men and women.”

Midshipman Kelly (pictured, far right) says of his experiences working with ALERT scientists at URI,

“Working alongside the graduate students under Dr. Oxley has been informative in linking the numerous research areas to future military application, as well as what is currently being used.”

COE students & industry partners network, make connections at 2015 ASPIRE April 10, 2015

Held on April 7, 2015, the fourth Annual Student Pipeline Industry Roundtable Event, otherwise known as ASPIRE, successfully brought together two of ALERT’s key components, industrial partners and students of all levels currently involved in center research, as a means of continuing to build strong collaborations and provide networking opportunities. This year’s ASPIRE took place at Northeastern University and included students from six academic partner institutions and representatives from nine industrial collaborators. The 2015 ASPIRE was also the first to feature representation from a government agency, the Transportation Security Laboratory (TSL).

Borne out of a more than fifteen-year-long tradition that ALERT and its predecessor, the Bernard M. Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems, has of close collaboration with industry members, ASPIRE’s mission is for industrial partners to introduce their companies, products and needs to one another, to our faculty and to our diverse student population. ASPIRE aligns with the Center’s ongoing efforts to create robust partnerships within our industrial base, while also giving students the opportunity to network as they transition through academia and into the Homeland Security Enterprise.

The 2015 ASPIRE was once again curated by the Center Industrial and Government Liaison Officer, Emel Bulat. Center Director, Michael Silevitch was on-hand to launch the event and welcome the attendees. Industry members gave 8-minute presentations, followed by 2-minute presentations made by students.  ASPIRE was able to expand student participation this year through virtual presentations made by individuals that could not travel to Boston. In the afternoon, students, faculty and industry met face-to-face during a three-hour networking session. The session activities included poster presentations by students, 10-minute roundtable “get-to-know-you” discussions amongst attendees and a closing reception.

It is our hope that connections made at events, such as ASPIRE, will continue to foster alliances within the COE between students, faculty, government and industry. We expect that such collaborations will produce responses to market opportunities, including government solicitations such as Broad Agency Announcements and Request for Proposals, and eventually result in effective technology transfer.

RI Senator Jack Reed Visits ALERT at URI February 25, 2014

FROM URI NEWS, KINGSTON, RI – February, 25, 2014 — U.S. Sen. Jack Reed met Monday with University of Rhode Island professors from chemistry, engineering and cyber security to see firsthand some of the leading research they are conducting on explosives, explosives detection, and cyber security, and discuss efforts to strengthen URI’s role in physical and cyber security study.

During a campus tour yesterday with Gerald Sonnenfeld, URI vice president for research and economic development; Jimmie Oxley, URI professor of chemistry and director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence in Explosives, Detection, Mitigation, and Response at the University of Rhode Island; Otto Gregory, URI distinguished professor of engineering and co-director of the Sensors and Surface Technology Partnership; Lisa DiPippo, associate professor of computer science and the academic director of the Cyber Security Program at URI; Alan Davis of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport; and URI students, Reed observed demonstrations of some of the work URI is doing to improve security, detect explosives and neutralize their impact, and strengthen the nation’s cyber security capabilities.

[Photo Credit: URI Photos by Michael Salerno Photography.]

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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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