News & Events
Research

Current Funding Opportunities in the Security Domain May 24, 2016

There are several funding opportunities in ALERT-related topics we would like the community to be aware of. Each of these are actively seeking proposals.

Sandia National Lab Request for Proposals:
http://www.northeastern.edu/alert/funding-announcement/sandia-national-lab-request-for-proposals/

TSA Innovative Concepts Broad Agency Announcement (TSICBAA):
http://www.northeastern.edu/alert/?p=4733

TSA Innovation for Aviation Security Broad Agency Announcement:
http://www.northeastern.edu/alert/?p=4734

DHS S&T Long Range Broad Agency Announcement (LRBAA):
http://www.northeastern.edu/alert/?p=4735

 

 

TSA Industry Day – Innovating the Future Symposium, June 7-9th May 24, 2016

Dates: June 7-9, 2016
Location: TSA Security Integration Facility

The Innovating our Future Symposium is the first in a series of annual technology conferences being hosted by OSC. This three day event will consist of presentations and interactive breakout sessions for a variety of topics, with time made available for questions.

The Innovating our Future Symposium expands upon the following initiatives:

  • OSC System Architecture and follow-on technical discussions from Industry Day in February 2016.
  • TSA’s Passenger Screening Request for Information (RFI) to be released May 2016.
  • TSA’s Primary Carry-on Screening System Targeted Broad Agency Announcement (T-BAA) to be released Fiscal Year 2016 Quarter 2.
  • TSA’s Future Innovation Task Force T-BAA to be released Fiscal Year 2016 Quarter 3.
  • TSA’s update to the AIT Detection Standards.
  • TSA’s future update to the AT Detection Standards.
  • TSA update on Cybersecurity

Registration is open: Your written registration must be emailed no later than:

5:00 PM EDT on May 30, 2016 for U. S. Citizens
5:00 PM EDT on May 17, 2016 for Non U. S. Citizens

Details on the event can be found at:

https://www.fbo.gov/spg/DHS/TSA/HQTSA/TSA_OSCIOF_2016/listing.html

BostonGlobe.com Looks at ALERT’s Advances in Precursor Control May 11, 2016

Dr. Oxley’s research in Characterization of Explosives & Precursors (R1-A1) is discussed in “Defusing Hydrogen Peroxide” a feature in the Ideas section of bostonglobe.com. Prof. Oxley speaks of the method she has developed to chemically alter commonly found Hydrogen Peroxide so it is no longer useful as a component in explosives.

Defusing hydrogen peroxide

May 10, 2016 – Brainiac Section of www.bostonglobe.com

In March, suicide bombers in Brussels killed dozens and injured hundreds more. Their dramatic attack caught the world’s attention, but the material used couldn’t have been more ordinary — an explosive called TATP that can be made by distilling the same hydrogen peroxide sitting in your medicine cabinet.

Jimmie Oxley at the University of Rhode Island thinks she has an idea that could make such attacks far more difficult to execute — and she has filed a patent for it. The idea is to mix hydrogen peroxide with trace amounts of additional chemicals, so that it retains its usefulness as an antiseptic, but can no longer be distilled to make a bomb…

Read More

Prof. Martinez Featured by Keysight and Northeastern April 29, 2016

ALERT researcher Jose Martinez-Lorenzo works in both the security and healthcare domains leveraging wave propagation techniques to improve methods of detecting objects. Keysight Technologies highlights Jose’s Multi-wave Sensing, Imaging, Control and Actuation Laboratory and the collaborative work they have done in their most recent Faculty Spotlight.

In the feature, Prof. Martinez states, “The emphasis of my research is on solving the complex problem of detecting and finding targets in a cluttered environment. Whether that target is a tumor or an explosive, it involves a similar process for wave propagation analysis.”

The full article can be read on Keysight’s Education Corner site.

Martinez-Lorenzo’s research which focuses specifically on Airport Security has been highlighted by Northeastern News in a dynamic video report. The site presents a video titled “DETECTING A THREAT” in which Jose explains how he and his team are using millimeter waves to detect explosive threats under clothing and detect these types of threats while people are moving at a regular pace. The site also features ALERT research by Prof. Carey Rappaport and the VAST team.

Martinez-Lorenzo’s research on Hematologic Characterization and 3D Imaging of Red Blood Cells Using a Compressive Nano-Antenna and ML-FMA Modeling also won the EuCAP 2016 Best Paper on Antenna Design and Applications Award. This is the 4th year in a row that an ALERT Thrust R3 PI has won a Best Paper award at the EuCAP annual event.

 

Student Spotlight: Srikrishna Karanam April 29, 2016

Srikrishna Karanam, an ALERT Ph.D. student in Computer and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), has been “Searching for people in camera networks,” (the title of his doctoral thesis) with his faculty advisor, Prof. Richard Radke, for over three years.

As described by Srikrishna, “The overall goal of the project is to design and develop a system, called tag and track, to assist TSA officials in detecting and tracking persons of interest in critical and busy environments such as airports. My role is to develop and implement the underlying algorithms that drive the system.” (To see the related ALERT 101 video, click here).

After completing his Bachelor of Technology degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from the National Institute of Technology Warangal in India, Srikrishna joined RPI as a Master’s student, initially involved in tracking people as they moved in videos, before joining ALERT’s video analytics research team.

When asked what about his work drives him, he states, “I am very passionate about algorithmic research being actually used to solve real-world problems. My involvement with ALERT has provided me with a wonderful opportunity to develop algorithms and systems keeping real-world constraints in mind… How do we ensure that the system works efficiently in such cases and does not ‘lose’ the person being tracked in the crowd? This is one of the several questions I want to address going forward.”

Naturally, there have been challenges along the way.  Srikrishna and his team worked to design a user-friendly system so that someone unfamiliar with Computer Vision was able to utilize the software. He states that, “The system had to work in real-time on live video feeds in the airport, so developing efficient and optimized algorithms was critical.” As a result of his work, he has authored and co-authored 9 papers (including 1 journal article and 5 conference papers in press, as well as several submitted).

When asked about his experience working with Prof. Radke, he says, “I have immensely enjoyed working with Prof. Radke. He has given me a lot of independence in developing ideas for my dissertation, and I feel that has helped me grow as a researcher.”

After he completes his Ph.D., Srikrishna hopes to transition to industry, with the goal of continuing his work with Computer Vision, and finding the opportunity to implement both basic and applied research.

Of the impact his participation in the program has had on this research interests, Srikrishna states, “ALERT’s emphasis on transitioning laboratory research to real-world solutions has had a huge impact on my research philosophy. Now, when I think of possible solution approaches to a certain problem, ensuring that my approach is adaptable to real-world scenarios is a top priority.”

ALERT & Gordon-CenSSIS Research Represented at RISE:2016 April 29, 2016

On April 7th, Northeastern University held its fifth annual Research, Innovation and Scholarship Expo (RISE), known as RISE:2016. The expo is an opportunity for students and faculty members to showcase use-inspired scholarly research and fundamental discoveries that can be translated into real-world applications. At RISE:2016, more than a dozen ALERT, Gordon-CenSSIS, and other affiliated students presented their inventive engineering research projects to the general public as well as the RISE judges, who hail from industry, investment, political, and media-related backgrounds.

Research based in the R3 Thrust, Bulk Sensors and Sensor Systems, was especially visible at the expo and represented by both graduate and undergraduate students. PhD candidates Yukinori Fuse and Mohammad Tajdini demonstrated their respective work with Professors Carey Rappaport and Jose Martinez-Lorenzo on advanced imaging and algorithm development for forward-looking vehicle-based Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR). Undergraduate student researcher Anthony Bisulco was present to explain his efforts in rapid security threat detection using millimeter-wave imaging, which he conducts within Prof. Martinez-Lorenzo’s group.

Members of the 2015-2016 ALERT and Gordon-CenSSIS Scholars Program were also presenters at RISE:2016. Innovative investigations into such topics as breast cancer imaging, big-data computing, large-scale image database development were representative of the Scholars’ year-long projects and potent material for participation in RISE.

We congratulate our students and faculty sponsors on their well-received presentations at RISE:2016!

Northeastern News spotlights ALERT research in Airport Security Technologies April 28, 2016

FUTURE OF AIRPORT SECURITY – Northeastern News, 4/28/2016

According to the International Air Transport Association, about 8 million travelers make their way through airports around the world each day. Traditional security requires passengers to stand still while being screened, but Northeastern researchers are developing cutting-edge technology that can detect suspicious behavior—even when passengers are on the move…

Profs. Camps, Martinez, Radke, Rappaport, and Sznaier’s work is featured in this dynamic video story.

Read More

TESSA02 Final Report Now Available April 1, 2016

The final report from the TESSA 02 Workshop, Fundamentals and Advances in Trace Sampling and Detection Workshop Information, is now available for download.

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The Associated Press features ALERT Researcher Otto Gregory’s work February 17, 2016

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP) — A University of Rhode Island professor has developed a sensor that detects the kind of explosive used in the Paris bombings, to try to stop future attacks.

Professor Otto Gregory compares his sensor to a dog’s nose, the gold standard in explosives detection. It “sniffs” the air for vapors emitted from explosives.

Photo Description: In this Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016 photo University of Rhode Island engineering professor Otto Gregory, right, is reflected in a silicon wafer, center, that contains sensors to detect explosives, in front of a thin film surface analyzer, behind, in a laboratory on the school’s campus, in South Kingstown, R.I. He has developed a sensor that detects the explosive used in the Paris bombings, to try to stop future attacks. Gregory compares his sensor to a dog’s nose, the gold standard in explosives detection. It “sniffs” the air for vapors emitted from explosives. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

 

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ALERT researchers work to develop robust Canine Training Aids December 16, 2015

Because of their volatility, explosives are rarely used pure, they are often mixed with other materials such as polymers. Explosives are exposed to polymers for a variety of reason: (1) when they are “plasticized” for shaping; (2) when they are encased for safe handling, (e.g. dog training aids); and (3) when they are collected for forensic evidence or storage. ALERT has focused on finding the best materials for developing devices such as these.

As a result of our study of polymer/HME interactions, ALERT researchers have developed a method of polymer encapsulation that is used to create safe trace explosive sources for canine and instrument training. Polycarbonate microspheres containing only a low percentage of TATP have been demonstrated to last for years, yet produce pure TATP vapor when heated at the designated program rate. This approach provides canine handlers and instrument vendors with safe access to stored hazardous explosives at trace levels for use in detection, calibration, and validation of instruments as well and the training of explosives detecting canines.

ALERT has received enthusiastic support from law enforcement and instrument vendors and are in negotiation for possible licensing with a commercial vendor. In the near term, law enforcement agencies and instrument vendors are able to request these training aids directly from ALERT.

Oxley said “Some of our biggest service clients are law enforcement agencies. When some of the improvised devices came into vogue, they were too sensitive for law enforcement agencies to handle.” Oxley explained that for the Popular Science crew, her team not only conducted a demonstration, but ran a test to determine if the dogs detect pseudo explosives as they do the real explosives.

“It worked and we were really excited, because this was a first-time run during which the dogs were testing both,” said the chemistry professor and co-coordinator of the URI Forensic Science Partnership. “We wanted to make sure they could associate one with the other; that was an extremely important task.

“With K-9s, we are looking at the odor signature, and we have to do that on an explosive-by-explosive basis,” she said.She added that Metropolitan Transit Authority police took advantage of training opportunities at URI long before other groups, but more and more agencies are seeking training, including the federal Transportation Security Administration, which has rotated dozens of agents through the URI campus this summer.

Photo caption: Sgt. Bill Finucane of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Department in New York works with McCarney, one of the department’s dogs, while testing canine explosive training aids developed by URI’s Jimmie Oxley and her team.