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Snapshot: DHS Centers of Excellence Create Future Problem Solvers

Snapshot: DHS Centers of Excellence Create Future Problem Solvers

Release Date: 
September 16, 2016

Preparing tomorrow’s leaders and innovators to face an ever-changing security environment.

Focusing on the future doesn’t just mean focusing on the technology, research, and development at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T). For S&T, focusing on the future also includes the specialized research and education programs at the university-based DHS Centers of Excellence (COEs).

Preparing the Passive Acoustic Recroding System for deployment at USMMA.“Today’s university students are our future problem solvers and leaders. We need to adequately train and mentor them to meet the country’s increasingly complex challenges,” said Matt Clark, director of S&T’s Office of University Programs (OUP), which manages the COEs.  It’s this mindset that has led OUP to offer grants, internships, and summer research experiences to help undergraduate and graduate students and recent graduates gain real-world exposure to homeland security challenges both in the field and in the lab.  OUP’s programs focus on a wide range of scientific and technological fields – from engineering and data analytics to psychology and criminology.

Students participating in one of these summer research experiences, the Maritime Security Center’s (MSC’s) Summer Research Institute (SRI), experience eight-weeks of intensive hands-on applications of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in research projects designed to advance the situational awareness and operational capabilities of homeland security practitioners such as the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and New York Police Department. Students conduct their research in collaboration with COE researchers at MSC’s lead university, Stevens Institute of Technology. 

“I worked with a great group of students representing many engineering fields and schools in order to create an integrated buoy system for scientific research on the ocean,” said Christina Hoy, a participant in this summer’s MSC SRI Program. “Amazing things can be accomplished when the right group of students work together. Hoy is a current student at MSC’s sister COE, the Arctic Domain Awareness (ADAC) Center.

ADAC, led by the University of Alaska (UA), conducts research and offers educational programs at campuses in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Their mission is to improve situational awareness and crisis response capabilities related to emerging maritime challenges posed by the dynamic Arctic environment. ADAC works with an array of federal, state, local, tribal, industry, and academic partners to collectively advance domain awareness of the Arctic region and is currently conducting research in arctic domain awareness (effective understanding of anything associated with the arctic maritime domain that could impact the United States' security, safety, economy, or environment) and maritime technology while advancing integrated education outreach and workforce development.

“Research teams were in charge of completing the research project in an eight-week time frame and writing a formal completion report upon concluding the research,” said Hoy. As part of the Buoy Noise summer research team, she looked at the effects of environmental noise (primarily buoy noise) on underwater detection systems used for safety and security surveillance.

She also participated in the deployment of a passive acoustic recording system at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. Hoy said that being an engineering student participating on a multidiscipline research team as an undergraduate will be beneficial once she begins her career. Studies at Stevens Institute included an in-depth course on maritime systems, cargo shipping, port security, and shoreline engineering.  

As a veteran in the program, Hoy said she looks forward to working with DHS and working on research related to DHS in the future. “As an ADAC fellow that has worked with a sister Center of Excellence, MSC, DHS can look forward to more research from me and a dedication to working for DHS. The integrated buoy system designed by me and my team may enhance situational awareness for DHS on the ocean and track small vessels that may be operating in piracy or drug smuggling.”

Hoy is one of the many students who had the opportunity to support DHS efforts this summer.  To learn more about the program at MSC, click the following link for a video: https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/msc-summer-research-institute.

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