Northeastern researchers are doing groundbreaking work in such areas as cyber defense and robotics and trailblazing a path to a stronger, safer nation. It is the University’s use-inspired approach to research that is particularly powerful when it comes to addressing the issue of national security—arguably the most daunting challenge of our generation.
Making the world safer is part of the University’s focus on research that aligns with three national imperatives: health, security, and sustainability.
Northeastern’s Leading Security Researchers
Agnes Chan, professor and associate dean in the College of Computer and Information Science, former codirector of Northeastern’s Institute for Information Assurance
Research focus: Chan is working with other computer scientists and electrical engineers on protocol-hopping algorithms to thwart “jamming” and other denial-of-service attacks on our nation’s computer networks. She played a lead role in the University’s successful efforts to be named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education and a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Research by the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Recent grants: $1.9 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF)/Scholarship for Service, $100,000 from the NSF/Computer & Information Science & Engineering, $170,000 from the Department of Defense/Information Assurance Scholarship Program.
Carey Rappaport, professor of electrical and computer engineering, deputy director for Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT), associate director of the Bernard M. Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems (Gordon-CenSSIS).
Research focus: Rappaport is investigating the use of radar waves to detect suicide bombers from a distance. The high-frequency radar would detect man-made objects that are attached to the skin and covered by clothing.
Recent grants: Coprincipal investigator on $33.6 million CenSSIS and $16 million ALERT grants,$4.9 million from the Department of Homeland Security Advanced Spectrographic Radiation Portal Monitor for special radioactive materials; $4.85 million from an ARO-sponsored multidisciplinary university research initiative in humanitarian demining; $400,000 from the Omnibus Task Order with the U.S. Army Night Vision and the Electronic Sensors Directorate.
Mario Sznaeir, professor of computer and electrical engineering (left), and Octavia Camps, Dennis Picard Trustee Professor of Computer and Electrical Engineering
Research focus: Sznaier and Camps are collaborating on an innovative unmanned air vehicle for the military. The team hopes to transfer the technology used to run a low-cost blimp capable of following a moving target or locating a stationery target to a miniature, swifter unmanned helicopter. Applications include surveillance for public safety, environmental safety, and disaster mitigation, and infrastructure inspection.
Recent grants: Nearly $1 million over six years from United States Air Force; $407,000 through various grants from the National Science Foundation; nearly $150,000 per year through the Department of Homeland Security–funded ALERT (Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats) center at Northeastern.
Ming Wang, professor of civil and environmental engineering
Research focus: Wang—the principal investigator for VOTERS (Versatile Onboard Traffic-Embedded Roaming Sensors)—is using vehicle-mounted sensor systems to collect a continuous stream of up-to-date information on the state of roadways and bridge decks. This system will also eliminate the dangerous work zones where this critical data has traditionally been gathered.
Recent grants: $9 million over five years from the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Technology Innovation Program for research on the development of sensors to detect abnormalities in highways and bridge decks, $600,000 over four years from the National Science Foundation for the development of nanosensors for TNT and DNT detection.
Michael Silevitch, Robert D. Black Professor of Electrical and Comuter Engineering
Research focus: Silevitch is focused on making our nation more secure from terrorist threats through the develop¬ment of cutting-edge detector and imag-ing technologies. One involves the use of radar to find hidden metallic objects under clothing; another uses video tech¬niques on crowd motion to distinguish abnormal behavior among individuals.
Recent grants: $16 million from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over four years for ALERT research and education program focused on charac¬terization, detection, mitigation, and response to explosives-related threats around the world; $1.6 million in fund¬ing from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s John Adams Innovation Institute to foster collaboration between ALERT and industry companies; $1.4 million in funding from DHS to develop ALERT datasets and metrics to evaluate advanced CT-based algorithms for lug¬gage screening.
Northeastern University recently received a $12 million gift from one of its alumni, George J. Kostas, to build a secure, state-of- the-art homeland security research facility on the University’s Burlington campus.
The new George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security, a multi-story building designed in accordance with Department of Defense standards and will give Northeastern the capacity and clearances to conduct restricted-area research in arenas critical to national security, including cryptography, data security, information assurance, detection of explosives, and energy harvesting.
Northeastern has a strong portfolio of research efforts built around security. In 2008, the Department of Homeland Security selected Northeastern as one of 11 universities nationwide for a DHS Center of Excellence. The $10 million grant established the Center for Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) at Northeastern. And Northeastern’s Marine Research Center in Nahant—which just secured $1.8 million from the National Science Foundation to upgrade its facility— is working on robotic technology to detect underwater mines.
The research conducted by the new Kostas Institute will be part of a federally funded research portfolio of Northeastern’s College of Engineering. The College of Engineering and the College of Computer and Information Science also have programs in cyber infrastructure protection and in the wireless and wired networks and algorithms that form the backbone of robust command and control systems.
A SECURITY CENTER FOCUSED ON CREATIVE SOLUTIONS
Applying the predictability of moving water to moving crowds may teach us how to spot behavior that indicates a person is up to no good, say Michael Silevitch, the Michael D. Black Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and codirector of Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT), a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence.
The linkage of water behavior—fluid dynamics—with crowd behavior is typical of the creative thinking that Northeastern researchers bring to issues of global security.
Silevitch and his team of researchers are exploring a variety of novel solutions. Engineering and chemistry researchers are collaborating on new construction methods that would make buildings and ships less vulnerable to explosions. Electrical engineers are working with their counterparts at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute on remote sensing technology to identify potential suicide bombers from a distance. Another international partnership, with Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, promises to expand the reach and effectiveness of Silevitch’s team.
For more information about research at Northeastern, visit northeastern.edu/research or northeastern.edu/governmentrelations, or contact Tim Leshan, vice president for government relations, 617.373.8528, email@example.com.