Building on Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun’s efforts to pre­serve home­land secu­rity research funding, leaders from North­eastern University’s Aware­ness and Local­iza­tion of Explosives-​​Related Threats (ALERT) Center met yes­terday with U.S. Home­land Secu­rity Sec­re­tary Janet Napoli­tano in Wash­ington, D.C., to high­light the inno­v­a­tive home­land secu­rity research being con­ducted at Northeastern.

ALERT co-​​director Michael Sile­vitch and deputy director Carey Rap­pa­port are in the nation’s cap­ital this week as part of the DHS Uni­ver­sity Net­work Summit, which this year is focusing on how public trans­porta­tion sys­tems can pre­vent, mit­i­gate, and respond to dis­as­ters. As part of this, ALERT pro­grams are being high­lighted at the Summit’s DHS Cen­ters of Excel­lence Research Inno­va­tion Showcase.

Having secure trans­porta­tion sys­tems is vital,” Sile­vitch said. “North­eastern and the ALERT Center are right in the midst of helping to safe­guard our nation in this area, as well as in other pri­or­i­ties like thwarting sui­cide bombers and pro­tecting our cyber infrastructure.”

ALERT is a multi-​​university Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity Center of Excel­lence that seeks to con­duct trans­for­ma­tional research and tech­nology and edu­ca­tional devel­op­ment for effec­tive char­ac­ter­i­za­tion, detec­tion, mit­i­ga­tion, and response to the explosives-​​related threats facing the country and the world.

In their meeting with Napoli­tano, Sile­vitch and Rap­pa­port high­lighted the ALERT Center’s work in cre­ating crit­ical tech­nolo­gies and tools that first-​​responders and other secu­rity per­sonnel can use on a number of fronts. One area is video ana­lytics, which involves building tools that can quickly assess sur­veil­lance video to iden­tify abnormal activity.

In addi­tion, Rappaport’s research involves suicide-​​bomber detec­tion and whole-​​body imaging. He is designing advanced com­puter models and hardware-​​design tech­niques for radar scan­ners that can probe bomb threats from a dis­tance and per­form per­sonal scan­ning at air­port check­points. Other ALERT research involves cre­ating improved and more auto­mated tech­nolo­gies to scan lug­gage at airports.

Sile­vitch and Rap­pa­port also high­lighted ALERT’s work to partner with industry to bring new explosives-​​detection tech­nology into the field, and to edu­cate a new gen­er­a­tion of stu­dents pur­suing careers in security-​​related fields.

This is very sat­is­fying research work to do,” Rap­pa­port said. “While these are inter­esting sci­en­tific and engi­neering prob­lems, they are very worth­while in that we’re helping pre­vent cat­a­stro­phes and safe­guard the homeland.”

ALERT is front and center in this country when it comes to bringing the aca­d­emic com­mu­nity into a posi­tion where it can be an active member of the team that is fighting the war on terror,” added Silevitch.