News & Events
ALERT Phase 2 is Launched! November 18, 2013
On Tuesday, October 22, ALERT hosted representatives from the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate for a ceremony to launch its second phase of funding. In ALERT’s next 5 years, Northeastern University takes the lead, strategically partnered with Boston University, Purdue University and the University of Rhode Island to carry out its mission to develop effective response to explosives-related threats.
Representing Northeastern University, Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, Stephen Director started out the ceremony expressing his happiness to continue the relationships with the core partner universities and welcomes working with new partners like Purdue University. He mentioned that the work done at ALERT which is translational and used directly in the field, exists in Pasteur’s Quadrant – it seeks to understand fundamental science while also being beneficial to society. He then handed off the microphone to Department of Homeland Security Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Technology, Daniel Gerstein.
Gerstein recognized ALERT Director, Michael Silevitch and ALERT Phase 1 Co-Director Jimmie Oxley for their award, stating that another 5 years of funding was validation for the work that has gone on at the Center. He noted that ALERT is a consortium that creates innovation through basic research and is constantly trying to work together to fix today’s problems. Gerstein was followed up by Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate Office of University Programs Director, Matt Clark, who asked that the universities keep supporting ALERT, highlighting that it’s the partnerships that actually make a change.
Statements by the officials were followed up by brief comments by leadership of each of the core universities who all stated their optimistic vision for the next 5 years. Representatives included University of Rhode Island Vice President for Research and Economic Development, Gerald Sonnenfeld, Boston University Vice President and Associate Provost for Research, Gloria Waters, and a letter sent by Purdue University Vice President for Research, Richard Buckius.
The ALERT team looks forward to the new partnership and another successful 5 years as a Center of Excellence. ALERT’s next phase will also include partnering with other Department of Homeland Security Centers of Excellence as it works to carry out its mission.
ALERT is Now Active on Twitter November 17, 2013
We are pleased to announce that we are now active on Twitter! This is a new and exciting way for us to deliver information to you that is relevant to the ALERT mission. Feel free to follow us at @ALERTCOE, and tweet any information that you feel is relevant to us. We’ll be happy to look it over and re-tweet it if appropriate.
Fall 2013 ASPIRE – Nov. 19th November 8, 2013
The Fall 2013 ASPIRE (Annual Student Pipeline Industry Roundtable Event) will be held on Tuesday, November 19th at Northeastern University in the Ballroom in the Curry Student Center. ASPIRE is hosted by The Bernard M. Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems (Gordon-CenSSIS) and the ALERT(Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats) Center of Excellence. ASPIRE provides an optimum setting for dialog among members of the academic, industrial and government communities and is intended to provide networking opportunities for ALERT and Gordon-CenSSIS students looking for internships, co-op opportunities and full-time jobs.
The topic for this November’s event will be “Graduating STEM Students or the Lack Thereof.” In the coming decade, many Baby Boomers will retire leaving industry scrambling to replace technical expertise in the US workforce. We would like to discuss this crisis and jointly consider possible solutions.
Three Panel Discussions
With this in mind, we will host three panel discussions led by faculty moderators to obtain the perspectives of the following key stakeholder groups:
- Graduate Students
- K-14 Pre-College Community
Industrial Members Posters
Following the panel discussions, our ALERT Industrial members will be presenting posters during a networking session focused on their upcoming human resource needs, future product or company development plans and exciting employment opportunities within their companies.
Key topics for discussion will include:
Why are large numbers of Americans not continuing their quest for higher education in STEM fields?
– Cost of education?
– Career Earnings & Compensation packages?
– Competing professions where compensation/reward vs education level is more attractive?
What issues do International students face during their education and upon graduation that make it difficult to use their degrees in the US?
What are the needs of our member companies in terms of workforce development and what educational or recruitment efforts can help with these needs?
How can Industry and Academia work together to attract talented students into STEM fields and provide them with viable career opportunities?
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.”
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 www.dhs.gov/st-oup.Read More
August 1st at 1pm EDT – Technologies for Bomb Response Twitter Chat August 1, 2013
DHS S&T will be hosting a twitter chat on Technologies for Bomb Response today at 1pm EDT. Those of you that are interested can follow the conversation at https://twitter.com/dhsscitech or at #STTechTalk.
The First Responders Group, with support from the Explosives Division and the DHS Office for Bombing Prevention, is hosting a Twitter Chat August 1 from 1:00-2:00 pm EDT. The topic is Technologies for Bomb Response, and the discussion will feature the Semi-Autonomous Pipe Bomb End-Cap Remover (SAPBER), FiRST App (a smart phone application for bomb response), and more!
A Twitter Chat is a virtual, two-way conversation that allows us to reach out to targeted audiences, ask for their feedback on S&T products/services, and answer their questions. We encourage our Twitter followers to tweet (message) us during the Chat so we can provide real-time responses. Twitter users can follow the full conversation using our hashtag (#STTechTalk), a designated word that links tweets from S&T and from participants.Read More
Summer REU Program is underway at ALERT July 23, 2013
The ALERT Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) 2013 summer program is currently hosting 9 exceptional undergraduate students at Northeastern University, and ALERT partner institutions. Prof. Carey Rappaport, Prof. Jose Martinez-Lorenzo, and Mr. Richard Moore, are working with the five ALERT REU students at Northeastern University. Two students are working with Profs. Brandon Weeks and Louisa Hope-Weeks at Texas Tech University, and two students are working with Prof. Samuel Hernandez at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez.
The summer program, which runs for 10-weeks from June 3rd – August 9th , provides students with full-time work experience on ALERT research, as well as meetings and activities geared to enhance professional development. A few of the students working at NEU begin their involvement in ALERT research through the ALERT Scholars program, which provides freshmen undergraduates an introduction and gateway to engineering research on campus during the spring semester.
Rachel Shaffer, an REU student working with Mr. Moore, began her work with him on Video Analytics through the spring 2013 ALERT Scholars program. She has become an integral part of his research team, and provided a demonstrated of some of their work during TSA Administrator, John Pistole’s lab visit on June 12th.
At the end of the program, the REU students will give presentations on their research projects. Students at Texas Tech University and University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez will present to the group online on August 6th, and Northeastern University students will present on August 8th from 9:00am – 1:00pm EST in room 378 in 140 The Fenway.
ALERT 101 is Back! July 17, 2013
ALERT 101: Video Analytics
We are pleased to present the second installment of ALERT 101. This segment’s topic is Video Analytics. ALERT researchers Richard Radke, Octavia Camps, and Venkatesh Saligrama explain what it is, how it’s used, and how they teach computers how to see and learn.
For users without YouTube access: ALERT 101: Video Analytics
This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under Award(s) 2008-ST-061-ED0001 and/or 2008-ST-061-ED0002. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies, either expressed or implied of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Inspired by the success of TED (www.ted.com) and other educational media forums, ALERT has developed the ALERT 101 video series. Each video short features different technologies and research areas that the ALERT Center engages in. We hope that these productions help educate and inform the global community on these topics in an accessible and enjoyable way.
ALERT hosts TSA Administrator, John Pistole and Boston Air Security Officials at NEU June 18, 2013
On June 12th, 2013, the ALERT Center at Northeastern University hosted a visit by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator, John Pistole, along with acting Boston Field Office Supervisory Air Marshal, David Brown, Boston Logan International Airport Federal Security Director, George Naccara and Kenneth Fletcher, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Administrator at TSA.
The visit was led by the Deputy Director of ALERT, Professor Carey M. Rappaport and included a tour of the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) lab where a group of 20 undergraduate and graduate students participated in demonstrations of ALERT research projects, including Multistatic Millimeter-Wave AIT scanning and Real-Time High-Value 3D External Surface Imaging using the X-Box Kinect sensor.
Professor Rappaport also presented his Standoff Detection Experiment, which uses a powerful millimeter-wave radar unit to detect threats from a distance, such as concealed body-worn explosives.
The tour continued in the Video Analytics Lab run by ALERT Professors Octavia Camps and Mario Sznaier. Using cameras and monitors, Professors Camps and Sznaier, along with their students, staged the lab to look like an airport exit lane, and asked Administrator Pistole and his associates to participate in a demonstration of the lab’s Video Analytic Surveillance Transition (VAST)software. The demonstration showed how their software flags “counter-flow” activity, by detecting people who walk “in” through an “exit” lane, thereby alerting security personnel if a person attempted to bypass a TSA checkpoint. Similar software is used for identifying left objects, which was demonstrated by the team when another program flagged a backpack which was left on the ground by a student walking through a crowd.
The visit was an excellent opportunity to present both ALERT research, and other security research that is being done at Northeastern University to Administrator Pistole and his group.
United States Secret Service Seeking Eligible Students with Chemistry Backgrounds May 23, 2013
The United States Secret Service would like to fund a COE, using the BOA, to support their Dynamic Ink Aging project. This project involves performing a series of experiments to determine the optimized parameters for assessing the age of ballpoint writing ink.
They are looking for two students who are citizens of the United States, chemistry majors and are able to obtain a security clearance or already have a clearance. Students have the option to either work on-site in Washington D.C. in the USSS Forensic Lab or off-site in their own university labs. If the students work off-site they must have access to a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer (GC/MS) and a thermal desorption unit (TDU). It is anticipated that the length of the project will be one year.
If interested, please send a resume, bio, and a list of chemistry courses to: