News & Events

ALERT Launches SPARC Webinars June 30, 2020

ALERT’s free online summer webinar series, SPARC (Seminars to Promote ALERT Research and Collaboration), kicked off on June 24th! SPARC aims to provide a preview of the ground-breaking technologies to be demonstrated at the ALERT Technology Showcase and will focus on ALERT’s work with industry and government stakeholders.

The first webinar of the series was presented by Professor Eric Miller of Tufts University and principal investigator for project R4-B.2, and Dr. Dan Strellis of Rapiscan Systems. Professor Miller and Dr. Strellis discussed their work in a presentation titled, “On the fusion of X-ray data types for enhanced materials characterization”. They also highlighted the successful collaboration between ALERT and Rapiscan. The webinar was well attended with 70 participants from industry, academia, and government institutions.

The webinar recording will be uploaded on the event webpage, along with the presentation slides. Please check back on the event webpage at a later time!

For more information on the upcoming webinars, please visit

If you are interested in attending any of the webinars or have any questions, please reach out to Tiffany Lam at for more information.

The Virtual Hackathon to Combat Human Trafficking will take place March 28th and 29th! March 23, 2020

Our fellow Center of Excellence, the Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis (CINA) Center, Blue Compass, and the TraCCC Center at George Mason University are hosting a virtual hackathon to combat child sexual exploitation and labor trafficking. For more information on the event and how to register, please visit their event page here.

Save the Date: ALERT Technology Showcase and ADSA22 December 18, 2019

ALERT is pleased to announce the upcoming dates for the following two exciting events at Northeastern University in Boston, MA:

  • The second ALERT Technology Showcase on May 5th, 2020
  • The 22nd workshop for Advanced Development for Security Applications (ADSA22) on May 6-7th, 2020

ALERT Technology Showcase, May 5, 2020

This year’s Showcase will feature presentations and demonstrations of ALERT research results and tools from select ALERT projects and select industry members. Attendees will also be able to interact with individual project researchers, students, and collaborators to learn more about their research throughout the day.

You can find out more about our Technology Showcase from last year’s event here:

ADSA22 Workshop, May 6-7, 2020
ADSA22 will address the topic of “Reducing the Cognitive Load of Operators of Aviation Security Equipment.” Specific topics that will be addressed include:

  • Automating operator functions, reducing vigilance decrement of operators and TIP
  • Increasing positive predictive value of automated threat recognition (ATR) algorithms
  • Creation and validation of synthetic images and simulants for training and testing
  • Target shifting and insider threats
  • Adaptability of machine learning algorithms
  • Technology readiness level (TRL) of third-party developments
  • Terrorist Be Gone: How do we get rid of terrorists? How do we allow passengers to just walk onto the plane?
  • Cybersecurity – prevention and mitigation and ethical issues with image retention and biased scanning
  • Emerging technologies

More information on ADSA22 can be found here:

If you have any questions on the ALERT Technology Showcase or ADSA22 or would like to request that invitations be extended to others in your organization, please contact Tiffany Lam, Northeastern University,

Save the Date for CBP ADEPT03! December 18, 2019

Please note: CBP-ADEPT-03 was originally scheduled to take place July 8-9 but has been postponed and the dates are TBA. 

The third workshop on Advanced Developments Encompassing Processes and Technologies for Customs and Border Protection (CBP-ADEPT-03) will be held July 8-9, 2020, at Northeastern University in Boston. The workshop will address Creating Effective Engagements with CBP.

This workshop is a spinoff of the ADSA workshops that have been held to address aviation security. The Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (DHS-CBP) has funded a new series of workshops dedicated to CBP. The format of the workshop is designed to encourage discussion during presentations. We look forward to seeing everyone in July – more details to follow soon.

More information on CBP-ADEPT-03 can be found here:

Learn more about past ADEPT events here.

Annual Student Pipeline Industry Roundtable Event (ASPIRE) 2020 December 18, 2019

The Annual Student Pipeline Industry Roundtable Event (ASPIRE) will be held on April 8th, 2020 from 11:30AM-5:00PM at the Cabral Center, John D. O’Bryant African American Institute on the Northeastern University, Boston Campus. The event is hosted by the ALERT (Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats) & Gordon-CenSSIS (The Bernard M. Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems).

ASPIRE provides an optimum setting for dialogue among members of the academic, industrial and government communities and also provides networking opportunities for ALERT students looking for internships, co-op opportunities and full-time jobs. The event is targeted at undergraduate and graduate students in the fields of engineering, science, and computer & information sciences interested in careers related to homeland security.

The ASPIRE features representatives from our Gordon-CenSSIS and ALERT industry and government partners. Typical event partners expected are American Science & Engineering, Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology, Raytheon Company, U.S Customs and Border Protection and More.


If you are a student interested in attending, please reach out to Tiffany Lam:

If you are an industry or government representative interested in attending, please reach out to Emel Bulat:

ALERT Hosts IAB Meeting and ADSA21 Workshop December 18, 2019

Last month, the Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) Center of Excellence held its annual Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) Meeting and ADSA21 Workshop. ALERT’s annual IAB Meeting and other members-only events provide industrial members with the opportunity to network with other industrial members, faculty from ALERT’s partner institutions, and representatives from local, state, and federal government institutions. The ADSA Workshop series is intended to  encourage open discussion of the challenges and opportunities related to the development of next-generation security systems and to facilitate collaboration and innovation between researchers from academia, national labs, and industry.

Over the three days of events, more than 150+ attendees from academia, DHS, TSA, government, and ALERT’s Industrial members and more participated in presentations, panel discussions and keynote talks. The week’s events started with the IAB meeting on November 4th at the Northeastern Innovation Campus in Burlington, MA. As the most attended IAB yet, this year’s agenda included a keynote address from Len Polizzotto, Partner at the Practice of Innovation, on maximizing the Innovation Process, utilizing some interesting techniques to keep companies moving in the right direction. ALERT Researcher, Professor Matteo Rinaldi’s presentation on Near-Zero Power Sensors was extremely well received with DHS S&T requesting further information to initiate the next steps for potentially providing additional funding for the project.

IAB attendees also took an in-depth tour of the Northeastern Drone Test Facility and the ALERT Video Analytics Lab. The day concluded with a Student Poster session and networking reception. Thirteen students, both undergraduate and graduate, presented their current research projects while networking with industrial members.

The topic of practicing and supporting innovation continued throughout the week on November 5th & 6th at ADSA21, which addressed the theme of Effective Integrated Systems for Aviation Security. During the two days of workshops, subject matter experts and leaders discussed defining and developing effective integrated systems including human operators, detection versus deterrence versus displacement, and the role of interconnectivity with open architectures, amongst others. In particular, attendees highlighted the Day One Q&A session, overall TSA presence and the introduction of machine learning to projects as their favorite moments during the two days of workshops.

We’re looking forward to the next ADSA Workshop (ADSA22) which will be held at the same location on May 6-7, 2020. The theme of the next workshop will be “ Reducing Cognitive Load of Operators of Aviation Security Equipment.”

To learn more about ALERT industrial membership, please see the Benefits of Collaboration, or contact our Industrial and Government Liaison Officer, Ms. Emel Bulat at

Next Monday! Industrial Advisory Board Meeting – November 4th, 2019 October 31, 2019

As part of membership to Gordon-CenSSIS and the ALERT Center of Excellence, Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) members are invited to an annual meeting every fall. This member-only event brings together ALERT industrial members, faculty from ALERT’s partner universities, as well as representatives from the local, state, and federal homeland security enterprise.

The 6th annual Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) Meeting will take place on Monday, November 4th, 2019 from 12-6 PM at the Northeastern Innovation Campus in Burlington, MA. This year’s meeting will continue to strengthen collaboration amongst members through keynote presentations, facility tours, networking and more. The day’s activities will include the following:

  • Keynote Address: presented by Len Polizzotto, Partner, Practice of Innovation
  • ALERT Faculty/Technology Highlight: Zero Power Sensors; presented by Matteo Rinaldi, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, ALERT Trace and Vapor Sensors(R3) PI
  • Guest Presentation: The Intersection of Research, Innovation, Education and Training; presented by Craig Gruber
  • Tours: Northeastern Drone Testing Facility and ALERT Video Analytics Lab
  • Student Poster Session and Networking Reception

This is an invitation-only event for ALERT industry and government members. If you are interested in learning more about center membership or how to become a member, please see our ALERT Industry Benefits of Collaboration webpage.

REMINDER: ADSA21 November 5th & 6th October 31, 2019

We look forward to seeing you next week at ADSA21!

The twenty-first Advanced Development for Security Applications (ADSA21) Workshop will be held on November 5-6, 2019 at Northeastern University in Boston, MA.  The theme of the workshop is “Effective Integrated Systems.” Presentations and panel discussions will include defining and developing effective integrated systems including human operators, detection versus deterrence versus displacement, and the role of interconnectivity with open architectures, amongst others.

These workshops are by invitation only. Please contact Tiffany Lam at if you are interested in attending future ADSA events.

ALERT Hosts Technology Showcase & ADSA20 Workshop May 29, 2019

May 29, 2019

Earlier this month, the ALERT Center of Excellence hosted the ALERT Technology Showcase (May 14th) in conjunction with the ADSA20 Workshop (May 15th & 16th) at Northeastern University. The ALERT Technology Showcase featured presentations, posters, and technology demonstrations of the Center’s research and tools and highlighted the Center’s collaborative work with industry and government stakeholders, such as Astrophysics, Inc., DetectaChem, ENrG Inc., Pendar Technologies, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Quadridox, Rapiscan Systems, Signature Sciences, and Smiths Detection, to name a few. The objective of the event was to demonstrate the transition of ALERT’s work to Department of Homeland Security components, such as the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well as its impact on the homeland security enterprise as a whole.

The twentieth workshop for Advanced Development for Security Applications (ADSA20) addressed the theme of “design, development, testing, deployment, and operation of effective systems.” Specific topics that were discussed during the workshop included: defining effective, effectiveness for stakeholders (airlines, passengers) and venues (subway, rail, cargo), humans in the loop, applications of metadata, rapid response to an adapting adversary, the role of artificial intelligence, and the transition of technology from academia to industry.

More than 160 attendees from academia, industry, and government participated in the ALERT Technology Showcase and ADSA20 Workshop, resulting in two of the most engaging events ALERT has hosted yet.

Regarding the value of the ALERT Technology Showcase, Francois Zayek, CEO of Astrophysics, Inc. stated

“I’m pleased to be here. I’m happy to see all the presentations, because again, we are so much involved in our industry. We are so much involved in the business, that we keep ourselves a little bit further away from the technologies, so every now and then it would be very helpful—and healthy—to come in and then see what is happening in the technology arena.”

Professor David Castañón (Boston University) and the lead for ALERT’s research on Video Analytics and Signature Analysis (Thrust R4), shared his thoughts on the most valuable aspect of the event stating

“It’s getting the feedback from a potential user. That is somebody who says ‘I have a problem this would be useful for.’ I’ve had two or three of those interactions while I have been here with the posters and it has been very nice.”

The next event ALERT will be hosting is the second workshop on Advanced Developments Encompassing Processes and Technologies for Customs and Border Protection (CBP-ADEPT-02), which will be held July 17th and 18th at Northeastern University. For more information on upcoming events and workshops, visit the ALERT website:

Photo: K9 Figaro waits patiently to participate in a demo of TEAS (Trace Explosives Aids for Scent), which ALERT developed in collaboration with DetectaChem, and showcased at the recent ALERT Technology Showcase as an example of safer training aids for explosives detection canines and first responders. 

Making Connections at ASPIRE 2019 March 27, 2019

March 28, 2019

This week, STEM students from ALERT’s academic partner institutions, and representatives from ALERT’s Industrial Members and government collaborators gathered together at Northeastern University for the Annual Student Pipeline Industry Roundtable Event (ASPIRE 2019). The aim of the ASPIRE series is to connect members of the industrial and government communities with qualified STEM students looking for internships, co-ops, and full-time jobs related to homeland security.

ASPIRE 2019 kicked off with welcoming remarks from Michael Silevitch (Director, ALERT), Emel Bulat (Senior Consultant for Corporate & Government Partnerships, ALERT), and Kristy Provinzano (Industry Liaison Associate, ALERT). Following this, ALERT Industry Members (American Science & Engineering, Rapiscan Systems, Raytheon, Smiths Detection) and representatives from the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs & Border Protection introduced student career opportunities at their respective organizations.

According to Adam Hutter, Laboratory Director at U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s New York Laboratory, “We’re constantly hiring, so we want to make sure we’re bringing in the best talent we can. The Department of Homeland Security has already invested heavily in these students through the Centers of Excellence pipeline, so it’s a resource we should utilize. These students have a leg up, because they’re already working on homeland security problems.”

ASPIRE 2019 featured both group and one-on-one meetings between students and representatives from industry and government. Many of the participants, like Jose Ruiz-Caballero who works on ALERT Project R3-C at the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, were ASPIRE returnees interested in jobs: “It’s a high impact event from my professional point of view, because you have direct contact with industry and government and they can provide you with a profile of what they’re looking for in a candidate.”

Molly Baldwin, a Purdue University undergraduate who works on ALERT Project R2-A.3 and is about to graduate is looking toward the future: “I started working on the research project last semester and fell in love with this industry. I’m here to see what jobs are out there for chemical engineers. I could see myself continuing to do research to improve the detection of explosives.”

For other students, the event is a great networking opportunity and a chance to gain experience speaking with job recruiters. First year student and first time ASPIRE attendee, Ian Hay, who does breast cancer detection research at Northeastern University, isn’t looking for a job quite yet, but found the event to be beneficial. According to Hay, “Communicating with different companies, both public and private, is valuable to me, especially in a low-pressure setting. Being able to meet with representatives and explain my work and how it applies to their industry is great practice.”

Since its establishment as a DHS Center of Excellence, ALERT has prioritized training the next generation of professionals to tackle explosives-related threats. Over the past 12 years, ALERT has trained over 160 graduate students, resulting in more than 100 of these professionals working in DHS-relevant fields. Events like ASPIRE 2019 are a significant part of ALERT’s mission to provide educational development to improve effective characterization, detection, mitigation and response to explosives-related threats facing the nation and the world.