An Institutional Focus
Centers of Excellence, designated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), are designed to support, stimulate and sustain the nation’s intellectual capital in academia to address current and future Homeland security-related challenges.
These programs educate the next generation of scientists and engineers dedicated to improving Homeland security. To extend this multi-disciplinary research, DHS has selected 11 universities to serve as partners to create innovative learning environments for critical Homeland security missions.
“Investments in long-term, basic research are vital for the future of Homeland security,” says Jay M. Cohen, undersecretary for DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate. “These colleges and universities are leaders in their fields of study. They will provide scientific expertise, high-quality resources and independent thought – all valuable to securing America.”
These universities will partner to lead one of five new Centers of Excellence across the country and receive a multi-year grant of up to $2 million per year, over a period of four to six years.
Center of Excellence for Border Security and Immigration: The University of Arizona at Tucson and University of Texas at El Paso will co-lead a new center responsible for conducting research and developing technologies, tools and advanced methods to balance immigration and commerce with effective border security. Their focus will be to assess threats and vulnerabilities, improve surveillance and screening, analyze immigration trends and help to enhance policy and law enforcement efforts.
“This is the latest example of how the University of Arizona (UA) can leverage its geographical advantage to serve the people of Arizona,” says UA President Robert N. Shelton. “By applying the expertise of our faculty to the challenges of immigration and border security, we are expanding our standing as international leaders into a new realm of social challenges, and the beneficiaries will be the people of the United States, Canada and Mexico.”
“We’re extremely pleased that the University of Texas at El Paso’s (UTEP) unique perspectives on border security and immigration have been recognized with this DHS Center of Excellence designation, and we look forward to contributing our expertise to these critical national priorities,” says UTEP President Diana Natalicio.
Center of Excellence for Explosives Detection, Mitigation and Response: Northeastern University in Boston and the University of Rhode Island (URI) in Kingston, R.I., will co-lead a new center responsible for conducting research to evaluate the risks, costs and consequences of terrorism, and develop new means and methods to protect the nation. Their primary focus will be to detect leave-behind Improvised Explosive Devices, enhance aviation cargo security, provide next-generation baggage screening, detect liquid explosives and enhance suspicious passenger identification.
Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun says that the grant will support the work of a visionary group who exemplifies the university’s leadership in fundamental and translational research. “Their work is vital to our national security, and we recognize the import of the confidence the Department of Homeland Security has placed in us,” he says.
URI Professor of Chemistry Jimmie Oxley, an expert in explosives says, “This grant from Homeland Security recognizes URI’s leading research and outreach in explosives, energetic materials and pyrotechnics and its ability to partner with other institutions doing work in these areas. Our team is pleased to be working with Northeastern University to further science and education in these fields.”
Center of Excellence for Maritime, Island and Port Security: The University of Hawaii in Honolulu and Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., will co-lead a new center responsible for conducting research and developing new ways to strengthen maritime domain awareness and safeguard populations and properties unique to U.S. islands, and remote and extreme environments. Examples include protecting the Alaskan Pipeline and other infrastructure and enhancing response and recovery plans for natural disaster threats such as earthquakes and tsunamis. The University of Hawaii will lead research and education for maritime and island security, and Stevens Institute of Technology will lead research and education for port security.
“This recognition is the result of a highly selective national competition among research universities,” says Stevens Institute of Technology Provost and University Vice President George P. Korfiatis. “Stevens’ long history of maritime engineering and pre-eminence in the realm of port and harbor security will guarantee for years to come a steady flow of technology advances of national significance as part of the DHS program.”
Center of Excellence for Natural Disasters, Coast Infrastructure and Emergency Management: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., will co-lead a new center responsible for conducting research and to enhance the nation’s ability to safeguard populations, properties and economies as it relates to the consequences of catastrophic natural disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, droughts and wildfires. Examples include protecting at-risk infrastructures and populations, enhancing post-catastrophic recovery, improving information-sharing and communication and enhancing critical supply chain resiliency.
“This grant is an example of how the hard work by scientists at UNC and our partner universities pays off in very tangible ways for the people of North Carolina and across the country,” says UNC Chancellor James Moeser. “It will help protect our homes, our businesses, our environment and our livelihoods.”
Center of Excellence for Transportation Security: Texas Southern University in Houston, Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Miss., and the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn., will co-lead a new center responsible for conducting research and developing new technologies, tools and advanced methods to defend, protect and increase the resilience of the nation’s multi-modal transportation infrastructure. These institutions were designated by Congress with the passage of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
University of Connecticut Engineering Dean Mun Y. Choi says of the grant, “As the research lead, we will coordinate the efforts of our partners to develop state-of-the-art techniques and advanced methods to defend, protect and increase the resilience of the nation’s transportation infrastructure. We look forward to involving our students, industry leaders, transportation officials and the public in building a new transportation paradigm the meets current and future needs.”