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Research

ALERT REUs Present Summer Research August 29, 2016

This summer, ALERT hosted three undergraduate students at Northeastern University to participate in a 10-week Research Experience for Undergraduates program. The ALERT REU program at NEU is partnered with other REU programs in the university’s College of Engineering, and builds a cohort of motivated students who attend professional development meetings and program activities, including presentations on Research Ethics, Lab Safety, PowerPoint Presentation Skills and Scientific Storytelling. At the end of the summer, each REU gives a final presentation of their research project. The presentation addresses the project’s overall mission and endeavors, the REU’s specific contributions to the project, as well as what knowledge and skills they gained through the process. This year’s students worked on projects related to ALERT’s Bulk Sensors & Sensor Systems research.

REU Anthony Bisulco (’18) is a third year NU student who worked with Professor Jose Martinez-Lorenzo on ALERT’s Rapid Security Threat Detection via MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) Millimeter Wave Imaging project.

In his words, “The main purpose of my REU project is to improve the overall passenger experience during the airport security screening process. Currently, this process is plaqued with many downfalls such as slow throughput, frequent false alarms and significant passenger divestment and recollection. The working goal of the project I am working on is to improve this process by creating ‘On the Move Screening’ where passengers walk at a normal pace through what appears to be a tunnel without the need to divest any clothing or personal items.”

Anthony’s project worked to increase the image quality of a 3D imaging millimeter wave radar (“Tunnel System”) with the goal of improving the system’s threat detection capability. “One part of this radar is various transmitters/receivers which illuminate/receiver the target (Human Torso) at various angles. As a result of adding transmitters/receivers the image quality is increased. Rather than adding multiple transmitters or receivers, my project added microwave switches to the system, which is the equivalent of adding more transmitters and receivers for imaging. Overall, I mainly designed the system for controlling these switches and developed some algorithms for optimizing the best imaging positions.”

Spencer Pozder (‘19) and Justin Xia (‘19) worked with Professor Carey Rappaport on Feasibility Investigations in Multistatic Imaging Techniques for their Research Experience. Currently, active millimeter wave radar is used for imaging objects concealed on the human body at airport security checkpoints. The current monostatic configurations are unable to accurately image objects at certain angles, give lower resolution, cost more, trigger more false alarms and have longer execution times. ALERT is interested in a multistatic configuration in an “On the Move” scanning system, capable of receiving image information from multiple angles in parallel, possibly increasing resolution and accuracy of the images produced.

The team developed a product using hardware from ALERT Industrial Partners, Rapiscan and Analog Devices, creating a functional system and imaging algorithm capable of reconstructing images. They also redesigned and relocated transmitter and receiver boards to accommodate the optimized system configuration and designed mechanical structure for holding transmitters and receivers. The “On the Move” system is currently being prototyped and patented.

In addition to this program, ALERT partner universities, including the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez and Notre Dame, also hosted summer REU participants in their labs.

The REU program is hosted and sponsored by the Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, and the Bernard M. Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems (Gordon-CenSSIS), a Graduated National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center.

ALERT Featured in DHS Science & Technology Newsroom August 29, 2016

The ALERT Center of Excellence works closely with industry partners like Detectachem and first responders to develop technologies and algorithms to enhance the ability to eliminate illicit explosives.

This month, ALERT was featured in the DHS S&T’s Responder Newsroom highlighting its improvement of explosives training solutions for first responders. The feature showcases ALERT’s work with K-9 explosive detection training aids (TEAS).

ADSA15: Save the Date! August 19, 2016

The Fifteenth Advanced Development for Security Applications Workshop (ADSA15) will be held on November 15th and 16th at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. The title of the workshop will be “Next Generation Screening Technologies and Processes for the Checkpoint.” This workshop is a continuation of ADSA12, ADSA13, and ADSA14. The workshop is being convened by the DHS Center of Excellence (COE) for Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT).

Presentation and panel discussions will address the following topics:

  • Emerging hardware and algorithms
  • Concepts of operations
  • Protecting soft targets
  • Data analytics – application to aviation security
  • System architectures
  • Business aspects of fusion
  • Funding, innovation and deployment models

For more information on the ADSA workshops, visit our ADSA Workshop Page

This workshop is by invitation only.

If you are interested in learning more, or receiving an invitation, please contact Melanie Smith at m.smith@neu.edu.

REMINDER: White Paper Submissions Due 7/1/2016 June 30, 2016

REMINDER: ALERT White Papers are due TOMORROW. Submissions will be accepted until July 1, 2016, 11:59pm local time.

Pursuant to the goals of DHS Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate, Office of University Programs (OUP), the ALERT Center of Excellence (COE) is accepting white paper submissions for research and transition projects in 2016 and beyond. The COE seeks end-user focused projects that conduct transformational research, develop technology, and provide educational development to improve effective characterization, detection, mitigation and response to explosives-related threats facing the country and the world.

This call will consider white papers for projects ranging from fundamental research through transition to the security enterprise (government, private sector). Submissions must document the problem, describe the gaps that exist, and how their project will address the gaps to protect the public from explosives-related threats. ALERT plans to fund approximately four awards for up to two years at $60,000 to $100,000 per year.

The Call for White Papers is available here: http://www.northeastern.edu/alert/?p=4738.

Any questions should be directed to alert-coe@neu.edu.

Feel free to forward this announcement to others.

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ALERT 2016-2017 Call for White Papers June 2, 2016

White Papers are due by July 1, 2016, 11:59pm local time.

Pursuant to the goals of DHS Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate, Office of University Programs (OUP), the ALERT Center of Excellence (COE) is accepting white paper submissions for research and transition projects in 2016 and beyond. The COE seeks end-user focused projects that conduct transformational research, develop technology, and provide educational development to improve effective characterization, detection, mitigation and response to explosives-related threats facing the country and the world.

This call will consider white papers for projects ranging from fundamental research through transition to the security enterprise (government, private sector). Submissions must document the problem, describe the gaps that exist, and how their project will address the gaps to protect the public from explosives-related threats. ALERT plans to fund approximately four awards for up to two years at $60,000 to $100,000 per year.

The Call for White Papers is available here: http://www.northeastern.edu/alert/?p=4738.

Any questions should be directed to alert-coe@neu.edu.

Feel free to forward this announcement to others.

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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…

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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.”