U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton received a com­pre­hen­sive overview of Northeastern’s robust port­folio of secu­rity research on Thursday after­noon, when he vis­ited the university’s George J. Kostas Research Insti­tute for Home­land Secu­rity in Burlington, Mass­a­chu­setts.

Led by a del­e­ga­tion including Mel Bern­stein, senior vice provost for research and grad­uate edu­ca­tion, Moulton spent the spent the day meeting with fac­ulty mem­bers, touring state-​​of-​​the-​​art labs, and wit­nessing the fruits of Northeastern’s security-​​related research part­ner­ships with fed­eral agencies.

North­eastern fac­ulty approach secu­rity issues from a use-​​inspired per­spec­tive, with a par­tic­ular focus on foiling ter­rorist threats, devel­oping sensing tech­nology, and pre­venting cyber­at­tacks on crit­ical infra­struc­ture, web­sites, and bat­tle­field units. The uni­ver­sity is the only higher edu­ca­tion insti­tu­tion in Mass­a­chu­setts to be des­ig­nated as a Center of Excel­lence in Infor­ma­tion Assur­ance, Cyber Defense, and Cyber Oper­a­tions by the National Secu­rity Agency.

Moulton, a former Marine Corps infantry officer who com­pleted four tours in Iraq, cur­rently rep­re­sents Mass­a­chu­setts’ 6th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict and sits on the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mittee. During his visit, he under­scored the impor­tance of pro­viding robust funding for basic secu­rity research. In his remarks to the New Eng­land Chapter of the National Defense Indus­trial Asso­ci­a­tion fol­lowing the tour, he pointed in par­tic­ular to its ability to enhance the tech­nical capa­bility, acqui­si­tion strategy, and future readi­ness of the armed services.

Northeastern’s secu­rity research profile

Secu­rity, which Pres­i­dent Barack Obama calls a “grand chal­lenge” of the 21st cen­tury, is one Northeastern’s three major research thrusts. The Kostas Research Insti­tute, for its part, brings together acad­emia, industry, and gov­ern­ment to advance resilience in the face of 21st cen­tury risks, and is but one of the university’s three major research cen­ters ded­i­cated to this topic. Here’s a brief sum­mary of the other two:

  • The Center for Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats, or ALERT, is a multi-university, Department of Homeland Security-funded Center of Excellence focused on detection, mitigation, and response to explosives-related threats. Researchers in this partnership apply their strengths in advanced sensor design, signal processing, sensor integration, explosives characterization, improvised explosive device detonator signatures, shock physics, and material science.
  • The Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems, or CenSSIS, is a multi-university, National Science Foundation-funded Engineering Research Center dedicated to revolutionizing technology for detecting and imaging biomedical, environmental, or geophysical objects. The center’s goal is two-pronged: to develop new technologies to detect hidden objects and then use those technologies to meet real-world subsurface challenges in areas ranging from noninvasive breast cancer detection to underground pollution assessment.

The projects under­taken at these cut­ting edge research facil­i­ties are inher­ently inter­dis­ci­pli­nary and draw on fac­ulty in fields ranging from engi­neering and physics to net­work sci­ence and bio­chem­istry. They fea­ture col­lab­o­ra­tion with gov­ern­ment defense and secu­rity agen­cies, security-​​based think tanks, and defense con­trac­tors across the globe.

North­eastern fac­ulty mem­bers are cur­rently working on more than 90 Depart­ment of Defense-​​funded research projects, for which they have received in excess of $51 mil­lion in funding. Vin­cent Harris, for example, the William Lin­coln Smith Chair Pro­fessor in the Depart­ment of Elec­trical and Com­puter Engi­neering, and Laura Lewis, a pro­fessor in the Depart­ment of Chem­ical Engi­neering, received a two-​​year, $3 mil­lion grant from the U.S. Army Research Lab. Their work—which includes the assis­tance of five out-​​of-​​state industry partners—is focused on devel­oping strategic mate­rials com­po­nents for antennas used in com­mu­ni­ca­tion and intel­li­gence gath­ering, including sur­veil­lance and reconnaissance.

The tour

Harris led Moulton’s tour of the Strategic Mate­rials Research Lab—one of five dis­tinct stops on the congressman’s journey through the Kostas Research Insti­tute. Moulton also famil­iar­ized him­self with these labs, cen­ters, and state-​​of-​​the-​​art sys­tems located in the $15 mil­lion, 70,000-square-foot facility:

  • The Laboratory for Structural Testing of Resilient and Sustainable Systems: Dubbed the STReSS Lab, the 4,000-square-foot facility includes a 2,000-square-foot reinforced concrete strong floor to enable full-scale testing of buildings, bridges, and other structures.
  • The Nanoscale Offset Printing System: Called NanoOPS for short, this system blends tra­di­tional offset-​​type printing tech­nolo­gies with state-​​of-​​the-​​art tech­nolo­gies at the nanoscale to make prod­ucts that leverage nano­ma­te­rials’ supe­rior prop­er­ties.
  • The Rogers Corporation Innovation Center: Opened in 2014, this 9,000-square-foot facility includes lab­o­ra­to­ries, con­fer­ence rooms, and office space designed to facil­i­tate com­mu­ni­ca­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion between the on-​​site Rogers staff mem­bers and the North­eastern students and fac­ulty working along­side them. The goal of this academic-industry partnership is to advance basic research and develop com­mer­cially viable break­through inno­va­tions in advanced mate­rials to address global chal­lenges for clean energy, Internet con­nec­tivity, safety, and security.

‘Making a dif­fer­ence in the world’

After the tour, Moulton and the North­eastern del­e­ga­tion dis­cussed the university’s vast array of research part­ner­ships, with a par­tic­ular focus on its ongoing rela­tion­ships with the DOD and the DHS. The delegation—which included Bern­stein; Peter Boynton, CEO and director of the Kostas Research Insti­tute; Nadine Aubry, dean of the Col­lege of Engi­neering; and David Luzzi, the exec­u­tive director of the Strategic Secu­rity Ini­tia­tive—under­scored Northeastern’s com­mit­ment to solving global chal­lenges in security.

We really want to make a dif­fer­ence in the world we live in,” Aubry told Moulton. “To that end, we’re making sure that the research we do has real-​​world appli­ca­tions and addresses the chal­lenges facing out society.” Added Bern­stein: “We’re com­mitted to dealing with the con­stant cyber­se­cu­rity threats, both from a tech­nical per­spec­tive and a policy perspective.”