News & Events
ALERT Hosts Technology Showcase & ADSA20 Workshop May 29, 2019
May 29, 2019
Earlier this month, the ALERT Center of Excellence hosted the ALERT Technology Showcase (May 14th) in conjunction with the ADSA20 Workshop (May 15th & 16th) at Northeastern University. The ALERT Technology Showcase featured presentations, posters, and technology demonstrations of the Center’s research and tools and highlighted the Center’s collaborative work with industry and government stakeholders, such as Astrophysics, Inc., DetectaChem, ENrG Inc., Pendar Technologies, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Quadridox, Rapiscan Systems, Signature Sciences, and Smiths Detection, to name a few. The objective of the event was to demonstrate the transition of ALERT’s work to Department of Homeland Security components, such as the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well as its impact on the homeland security enterprise as a whole.
The twentieth workshop for Advanced Development for Security Applications (ADSA20) addressed the theme of “design, development, testing, deployment, and operation of effective systems.” Specific topics that were discussed during the workshop included: defining effective, effectiveness for stakeholders (airlines, passengers) and venues (subway, rail, cargo), humans in the loop, applications of metadata, rapid response to an adapting adversary, the role of artificial intelligence, and the transition of technology from academia to industry.
More than 160 attendees from academia, industry, and government participated in the ALERT Technology Showcase and ADSA20 Workshop, resulting in two of the most engaging events ALERT has hosted yet.
Regarding the value of the ALERT Technology Showcase, Francois Zayek, CEO of Astrophysics, Inc. stated
“I’m pleased to be here. I’m happy to see all the presentations, because again, we are so much involved in our industry. We are so much involved in the business, that we keep ourselves a little bit further away from the technologies, so every now and then it would be very helpful—and healthy—to come in and then see what is happening in the technology arena.”
Professor David Castañón (Boston University) and the lead for ALERT’s research on Video Analytics and Signature Analysis (Thrust R4), shared his thoughts on the most valuable aspect of the event stating
“It’s getting the feedback from a potential user. That is somebody who says ‘I have a problem this would be useful for.’ I’ve had two or three of those interactions while I have been here with the posters and it has been very nice.”
The next event ALERT will be hosting is the second workshop on Advanced Developments Encompassing Processes and Technologies for Customs and Border Protection (CBP-ADEPT-02), which will be held July 17th and 18th at Northeastern University. For more information on upcoming events and workshops, visit the ALERT website: www.northeastern.edu/alert
Photo: K9 Figaro waits patiently to participate in a demo of TEAS (Trace Explosives Aids for Scent), which ALERT developed in collaboration with DetectaChem, and showcased at the recent ALERT Technology Showcase as an example of safer training aids for explosives detection canines and first responders.
Making Connections at ASPIRE 2019 March 27, 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.
Spring 2019: Upcoming ALERT Events November 29, 2018
Annual Student Pipeline Industry Roundtable Event (ASPIRE)
March 26, 2019
The Annual Student Pipeline Industry Roundtable Event (ASPIRE) will be held on March 26, 2019 at Northeastern University (Boston, MA). The ASPIRE is hosted by ALERT (Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats) & Gordon-CenSSIS (The Bernard M. Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems). ASPIRE provides an optimal setting for dialogue between members of the academic, industrial, and government communities and also provides networking opportunities for students looking for internships, co-op experiences, and full-time jobs. ASPIRE is targeted at undergraduate and graduate students in the fields of engineering, science, and computer & information sciences who are interested in careers related to homeland security.
ALERT Technology Showcase and Research Review
May 14, 2019
ALERT will be hosting a Technology Showcase and Research Review on May 14, 2019 at Northeastern University (Boston, MA). This event will feature presentations and demonstrations of ALERT research results and tools from select ALERT projects. Attendees will also be able to interact with individual project researchers and collaborators to learn more about their research throughout the day.
Advanced Developments for Security Applications (ADSA20) Workshop
May 15-16, 2019
The twentieth Advanced Developments for Security Applications (ADSA20) Workshop will be held May 15-16, 2019 at Northeastern University (Boston, MA). Due to conflicts with other events, ALERT has changed the date previously provided. The theme of the workshop will be “Design, Development, Testing, Deployment and Operation of Effective Systems.” Topics that will be addressed include:
- Defining “effective”
- Effectiveness for other stakeholders: airlines and passengers
- Effectiveness for other venues: subway, rail, and cargo
- Human in the loop
- Positive predictive value improvement
- Detection versus deterrence versus displacement
- Role of interconnectivity with open architectures
- Correct operating point on the receiver operator characteristic curve
- Application of metadata
- Rapid response to an adapting adversary
- Managing the threat list
- Dealing with imperfect equipment
- Role of Artificial Intelligence
- Statistical significance of tests and influence of limited training data
- Application of simulants
- True versus auto-detection
- Data augmentation
- Transition – particularly from academia
- Reducing time to market
- Role of third parties
A formal invitation to register for the ADSA20 Workshop and the ALERT Technology Showcase and Research Review, along with the agenda and logistics information are forthcoming. These events are by invitation only. Please contact Tiffany Lam at [email protected] if you are interested in attending.
Advanced Developments Encompassing Processes and Technologies for Customs and Border Protection (CBP-ADEPT-02)
July 17-18, 2019
The second workshop on Advanced Developments Encompassing Processes and Technologies for Customs and Border Protection (CBP-ADEPT-02) will be held July 17-18, 2019 at Northeastern University (Boston, MA). The CBP-ADEPT-02 Workshop will address advanced development and processes for tomorrow with presentations and panel discussions on specific topics, such as:
- An adaptive adversary
- Integration of equipment and data
- Collection and use of meta-data
- Insider threats
- Adaptation of TSA technologies
- Economics – incentives
- Simulation tools
- War gaming applications
A formal invitation to register for the event, along with the agenda and logistics information is forthcoming. You can find more information about the CBP-ADEPT workshops in the following link: http://alert.northeastern.edu/transitioning-technology/cbpadept/
Highlights from the 2018 Industrial Advisory Board Meeting November 29, 2018
ALERT held its annual Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) Meeting at the Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security in Burlington, MA on October 15th. The agenda attracted many of ALERT’s Industrial members, representatives from ALERT’s DHS Office of University Program (OUP) customers, and members of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T).
The agenda included welcoming remarks from Peter Boynton, the CEO of the Kostas Research Institute; presentations from two ALERT Industrial Members and two ALERT researchers; an IAB retrospective discussion; a tour of the ALERT Video Analytics Laboratory; a student poster session; and a networking reception. Presentations at the event included:
- Overview: NEU Master’s Degree & Certificate in Homeland Security, Jack McDevitt, Director, Institute on Race and Justice, Professor of the Practice, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Northeastern University
- Utilizing Guardian Centers for R&D, Doug Lang, VP Business Development, CBRNE-WMD, Guardian Centers, LLC
- Standoff Trace Detection, Anthony Hoffman, Associate Professor, University of Notre Dame
- The Role of Texturing X-ray Diffraction Tomography, Joel Greenberg, Assistant Research Professor, Duke University
- Making the most of ALERT Membership, Dan Strellis, Sr. Director, R&D, Rapiscan Laboratories
- IAB Retrospective Group Discussion, Facilitated by Emel Bulat and Kristy Provinzano, ALERT Industry Liaison Office, Northeastern University
Common discussion topics throughout the event included technology maturation, testing in realistic environments, and technology transition. The presentations and subsequent discussion connected industrial members with one another, as well as members of DHS S&T, resulting in plans to continue discussions and potentially collaborate in the future to support technology maturation and transition.
ALERT’s annual IAB Meeting and other members-only events provide industrial members with the opportunity to network with other industrial members, faculty from ALERT’s partner institutions, and representatives from local, state, and federal government institutions. Other advantages of ALERT industrial membership include admission to the Annual Student Pipeline Industry Roundtable Event (ASPIRE), providing industrial members with access to qualified job-seeking students; the opportunity to request targeted research in an area of interest to their organizations; and waivers of ALERT workshop registration fees.
For more advantages of ALERT industrial membership, please see the Benefits of Collaboration, or contact our Industrial and Government Liaison Officers, Ms. Kristy Provinzano at [email protected], or Ms. Emel Bulat at [email protected].
ADSA19 Workshop Brings Academia, Industry, and Government Together November 29, 2018
The Nineteenth Advanced Development for Security Applications (ADSA19) Workshop occurred on October 16-17, 2018 at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. Close to 150 participants from academia, industry, and government gathered to engage in dialogue related to the theme of the workshop: “Rapid Response to an Adapting Adversary.”
Over the course of two days, subject matter experts and leaders from the Homeland Security Enterprise delivered presentations and participated in panel discussions on the topic of collecting and using metadata. Specific topics discussed included:
- Characterization of emerging threats
- Development and deployment of automated threat recognition (ATR) algorithms
- Metrics for assessing adaptability
- Operator involvement
- Third-parties, open-architectures
- Fused algorithms and systems
- Deterrence and dynamics systems
- Machine learning, simulants and simulated datasets
- Networking and cybersecurity
- Detecting the terrorist versus the threat
- Risk based screening using video tracking of passengers and divested objects
- Air cargo
- Automation of concept of operations (automated screening lanes)
- Checkpoint CT and prohibited items
The next ADSA Workshop (ADSA20) will be held at the same location on May 15-16, 2019. The theme of the workshop will be “Design, Development, Testing, Deployment and Operation of Effective Systems.” ADSA20 is expected to continue to draw interested and engaged communities from the Homeland Security Enterprise.
The ADSA Workshop series has been convened by the DHS Center of Excellence (COE) for Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) since 2009. Originally named the “Algorithm Development for Security Applications” Workshop series, the name was changed following ADSA10 in 2014 to reflect how the scope of the workshop series has expanded well beyond algorithms. The ADSA Workshop series is intended to address research opportunities that may enable the development of next-generation systems and to facilitate collaboration and innovation between researchers from academia, national labs, and industry.
Presentations from the ADSA19 Workshop are available for viewing online: http://alert.northeastern.edu/transitioning-technology/adsa/final-reports-and-presentations/adsa19-presentations/
Final reports for previous ADSA Workshops are also available online: http://alert.northeastern.edu/transitioning-technology/adsa/final-reports-and-presentations/
ALERT REUs Deliver Final Presentations September 27, 2018
September 27, 2018
Summer is a time for soaking up the sun, but for seven ambitious undergraduate students who participated in ALERT’s 10-week long Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program, this summer was dedicated to ALERT research! At Northeastern University (NU), Anthony Englert (University of Massachusetts Amherst) and Samuel Kebadu (George Mason University) worked with Professor Carey Rappaport (Projects R3-A.2, & R3-A.3); and Alexis Costales (Washington University in St. Louis), Diego Rojas (NU), and Joe Von Holten (NU) worked with Professor Jose Martinez Lorenzo (Projects R3-B.1 & R3-B.2). At the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez (UPRM), UPRM undergraduates, Samuel J. García-León and Roberto A. Rivera-De Jesús worked with Professor Samuel Hernandez (Project R3-C). The ALERT REU Program at NU collaborates with other REU programs in NU’s College of Engineering to build a cohort of students who jointly attend professional development meetings and program activities.
On August 9th, ALERT and Gordon-CenSSIS REUs based at NU delivered final presentations to friends, family, mentors, and professors on their project’s mission, their research contributions, and the knowledge and skills they gained from the program. The event kicked off at 9:00am with opening remarks from NU Professor David Kaeli (Electrical and Computer Engineering). A poster session was held at noon, where REUs shared posters they created, detailing their research contributions. During the session, faculty and mentors talked to each student about their work and judged them on three different categories: overall poster organization, research process presented clearly on poster, and oral presentation skills.
The event concluded with an award ceremony and closing remarks from Melanie Smith, REU Program Manager. Five students won an award for their posters including ALERT REUs, Anthony Englert and Sam Kebadu for their poster “Experimental Validation of a Multi-Static Imaging System for Concealed Threat Detection.” According to Professor Rappaport, “Anthony and Sam embraced the problem [focusing mm-waves for Advanced Imaging Technology] and were enthusiastically dedicated to solving it.”
If you are interested in hearing more about the experiences of past REU students, please check out ALERT’s short video: “ALERT Undergraduate Research in the AIT Lab at Northeastern University.”
Photo caption: REUs, Sam Kebadu and Anthony Englert, pose with their award winning poster and ALERT Postdoctoral Fellow, Mohammad Nemati.
ALERT Leads Trace Detection Seminar for Industrial Partner September 27, 2018
September 27, 2018
ALERT Thrust R2 Lead, Dr. Steve Beaudoin (Purdue University) led a seminar on Trace Detection at Rapiscan Systems, an OSI Systems Company, in Andover, Massachusetts on August 17, 2018. Rapiscan Systems, an ALERT Industrial Partner, specializes in providing state-of-the-art products, solutions, and services to meet the threat detection needs at airports, border crossings, railway stations, government and military installations, and high-risk facilities around the world.
Under the ALERT Industrial Partnership model, Industrial Partners can select one or more ways to allocate their membership fees. One of those options is a full-day seminar on a topic of the Industrial Partner’s choice and relevant to one of ALERT’s four research thrusts.
Dr. Beaudoin spent the morning with about 15-20 Rapiscan employees, interns, and co-op students from several disciplines. During this time, he gave a 2-hour (10:00am-12:00pm) lecture style presentation on Trace Detection covering three topics of interest: particulate explosives, compound explosives, and the TESSA Project – Contact Sampling Study. Participants had the opportunity to ask questions during the presentation, and after lunch, there were several more hours of Q&A and discussion (ending at 4:00pm). Several collaboration opportunities were discussed throughout the day, as well as several ways in which the two organizations can support one another’s work.
The feedback throughout the day, from several Rapiscan employees, was very positive and was followed by a request for more seminars in the future. Dr. Beaudoin’s contact sampling project report and seminar presentation was disseminated to the Rapiscan team as a resource.
According to Stefan Lukow, Ph.D., Director of Research and Development at Rapiscan Systems, “The seminar last Friday was very well received by many members of my R&D group as well as the greater engineering team. Throughout Steve’s presentation, there were many discussions and also ideas spurred for potential collaboration or suggestions for future work to be done by either side. It was informative and took the tone of a discussion rather than a lecture. Following the presentations, Steve made himself available for additional discussion with the engineering team for more in-depth discussions and several took him up on this offer. Overall, it was greatly beneficial to have Steve present his work and that of the ALERT center. I hope for more opportunities in the near future.”
For more information about ALERT’s customizable Industrial Partnerships and benefits of partnering with ALERT, please visit the ALERT Website or email Emel Bulat (Industrial and Government Liaison Officer) or Kristy Provinzano (Industry Liaison Associate).
Photo caption: Low-resolution scanning electron microscope image of freestanding micro-patterned traps used during contact sampling
Watch the Newest ALERT Video: “ADSA: Providing Insight and Opportunities to Industry” July 31, 2018
July 31, 2018
The ADSA workshops have always been a place for industry members to meet, collaborate, and realize future goals. In this video, we ask ADSA Industrial attendees about what impact the ADSA workshops have had in fostering the development of new technology and partnerships.
For more information on ALERT Advanced Development for Security Applications (ADSA) Workshops visit: http://alert.northeastern.edu/transitioning-technology/adsa
ALERT Industrial Membership
Whether you are a small business or an industry leader, our ALERT Industry Partner program can provide benefits that bring you closer to the cutting edge research being done that will set your product apart from the competition. Are you interested? Visit our membership FAQ: http://alert.northeastern.edu/industrial-collaboration/f-a-q
This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate, Office of University Programs, under Grant Award 2013-ST-061-ED0001. 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.
2018 DHS COE Summit Facilitates Collaboration and Advances DHS Mission July 31, 2018
ALERT, along with other current and emeritus DHS Centers of Excellence (COEs), hosted the 2018 Centers of Excellence Summit in Arlington, Virginia on May 30-31, 2018. The event focused on the topic of “University Research and Development to Protect the Homeland.” The DHS COE Summit provided the Centers of Excellence an opportunity to showcase their innovative solutions to homeland security challenges and facilitate collaboration across homeland security enterprise leadership and component end-users and industry participants. According to ALERT Center Director, Michael B. Silevitch,
“One of the most valuable aspects of the Summit was the teamwork needed to pull it together. It required a concerted effort by all of the COEs to organize and orchestrate the event. Going forward, this teamwork will lead to meaningful cross-center collaboration.”
The agenda for the two-day long summit was launched with a keynote address from Christopher C. Krebs, Senior Official Performing the Duties of Under Secretary, National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) and included talks by various security administrators, panel discussions, student posters, and a technology showcase.
Director Silevitch moderated a panel focused on “Transportation and Critical Infrastructure” on the first day of the summit. Panelists Carl Crawford, Eva Lee, David Nicol, and Detlof VonWinterfeldt addressed four questions related to this topic:
- What are some of the grand challenges that need to be addressed to enable the next generation of Homeland Security transportation and critical infrastructure solutions?
- What research needs to be done in order to address these challenges?
- How can the research outcomes be effectively transitioned to the field?
- What metrics can be used to enable a cost-benefit analysis of the research/transition impact?
ALERT’s Transition Team made connections with end users at the technology showcase and featured some of ALERT’s latest solutions in multi-view air cargo CT scanners, effective personnel screening, video tracking at the airport security checkpoint, and K9 explosives training aids.
COEs excel in advancing the state of the art thanks in large part to their student researchers. To acknowledge this, the summit provided students with the opportunity to present their work to attendees. Katherine Graham, one of ALERT’s talented undergraduate researchers, took home the Best Poster Award for her work on “Compressive Reflector Antennas for High-Sensing Capacity Imaging Applications.” These antenna designs provide a less complex and lower cost solution for high-sensing capacity millimeter wave imaging systems. Millimeter wave imaging systems have the potential for use in several near-field imaging applications such as security screening, non-destructive testing, autonomous driving, and biotechnology. The abstracts for the COE Summit student posters are available for download on the COE Summit 2018 website.
The summit provided an all-hands-on-deck approach to addressing homeland security challenges by bringing together some of the nation’s best academic, public, and private sector leaders to discuss strategies for advancing the mission of the Department of Homeland Security. ALERT looks forward to the next DHS COE Summit, and hopes you will join us there!
ALERT Launches New Workshop Series July 31, 2018
July 31, 2018
The first Advanced Development for Security Applications for Customs and Border Protection (ADSA-CBP-01) Workshop occurred on June 20-21, 2018 at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. This workshop, an offshoot of the original ALERT ADSA Workshop series, brought together 120 attendees from government, industry, and academia to discuss key problem areas in port security, as well as current technology and potential improvements; brainstorm the future state of cargo security; and identify future technology concepts.
The ADSA-CBP-01 Workshop addressed problem solving for the following venues, threats, and stakeholders:
- Ports of entry: mail, parcel, airports, ships, rails, and land crossing
- Transportation: aircraft, rail, cars, trucks, ships, and pedestrians
- Threats: persons and/or contraband (narcotics, agriculture products and intellectual property)
- Stakeholders: DHS-CBP, industry, academia, and national labs
Presentations were given in the following areas of expertise:
- Scanning technologies
- Concepts of operation
- Deterrence and hardening
- Financial and policy implications
If you were unable to attend the ADSA-CBP-01 Workshop, presentations from the two-day event are available for download.
The ADSA-CBP-01 Workshop is convened by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center of Excellence (COE) for Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) at Northeastern University. ALERT is supported by the DHS Science and Technology Directorate and the Customs and Borders Protection Office of Field Operations through the DHS Office of University Programs.
The next installment of this workshop series, ADSA-CBP-02, is planned for March 2019. These workshops are by invitation only; however, if you are interested in attending, please inquire with ALERT at [email protected].