Making Connections at ASPIRE 2019

March 28, 2019

This week, STEM students from ALERT’s academic partner institutions, and representatives from ALERT’s Industrial Members and government collaborators gathered together at Northeastern University for the Annual Student Pipeline Industry Roundtable Event (ASPIRE 2019). The aim of the ASPIRE series is to connect members of the industrial and government communities with qualified STEM students looking for internships, co-ops, and full-time jobs related to homeland security.

ASPIRE 2019 kicked off with welcoming remarks from Michael Silevitch (Director, ALERT), Emel Bulat (Senior Consultant for Corporate & Government Partnerships, ALERT), and Kristy Provinzano (Industry Liaison Associate, ALERT). Following this, ALERT Industry Members (American Science & Engineering, Rapiscan Systems, Raytheon, Smiths Detection) and representatives from the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs & Border Protection introduced student career opportunities at their respective organizations.

According to Adam Hutter, Laboratory Director at U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s New York Laboratory, “We’re constantly hiring, so we want to make sure we’re bringing in the best talent we can. The Department of Homeland Security has already invested heavily in these students through the Centers of Excellence pipeline, so it’s a resource we should utilize. These students have a leg up, because they’re already working on homeland security problems.”

ASPIRE 2019 featured both group and one-on-one meetings between students and representatives from industry and government. Many of the participants, like Jose Ruiz-Caballero who works on ALERT Project R3-C at the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, were ASPIRE returnees interested in jobs: “It’s a high impact event from my professional point of view, because you have direct contact with industry and government and they can provide you with a profile of what they’re looking for in a candidate.”

Molly Baldwin, a Purdue University undergraduate who works on ALERT Project R2-A.3 and is about to graduate is looking toward the future: “I started working on the research project last semester and fell in love with this industry. I’m here to see what jobs are out there for chemical engineers. I could see myself continuing to do research to improve the detection of explosives.”

For other students, the event is a great networking opportunity and a chance to gain experience speaking with job recruiters. First year student and first time ASPIRE attendee, Ian Hay, who does breast cancer detection research at Northeastern University, isn’t looking for a job quite yet, but found the event to be beneficial. According to Hay, “Communicating with different companies, both public and private, is valuable to me, especially in a low-pressure setting. Being able to meet with representatives and explain my work and how it applies to their industry is great practice.”

Since its establishment as a DHS Center of Excellence, ALERT has prioritized training the next generation of professionals to tackle explosives-related threats. Over the past 12 years, ALERT has trained over 160 graduate students, resulting in more than 100 of these professionals working in DHS-relevant fields. Events like ASPIRE 2019 are a significant part of ALERT’s mission to provide educational development to improve effective characterization, detection, mitigation and response to explosives-related threats facing the nation and the world.

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