sealPurdue News

November 8, 2002

Purdue to plan new homeland security institute

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Top business executives and government officials from around the United States will meet Tuesday and Wednesday (11/12 and 11/13) to help Purdue University develop a strategic plan for its new Homeland Security Institute.

Purdue has about 150 researchers – from physicists to philosophers – who are working in areas related to homeland security. Eighteen outside experts will attend the strategic planning sessions, and they will team up with 18 Purdue faculty members to outline a plan for the institute.

The conference has been organized so that sessions address key concepts in the White House's "National Strategy for Homeland Security," said Dennis Engi, head of Purdue's School of Industrial Engineering, who will be director of the new institute. The national plan has three strategic objectives: to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, to reduce the nation's vulnerability to terrorism and to minimize the damage from attacks.

Those objectives are focused into six "critical mission areas:" intelligence and warning, border and transportation security, domestic counterterrorism, protecting critical infrastructure, defending against catastrophic threats, and emergency preparedness and response. The U.S. strategy for homeland security deals not only with acts of terrorism but also with natural disasters.

"We have identified what it is that Purdue University has in the way of interests and capabilities related to those six critical mission areas," Engi said.

The Purdue Homeland Security Institute will create teams of researchers to tackle specific types of terrorist threats. The university has applied for millions of dollars in federal funding to develop programs within the new institute. Purdue researchers are proposing to create and oversee new academic programs in which students would earn degrees with a specialization in homeland security, learning about the threats and opportunities associated with globalization, Engi said.

The degree programs would be developed for all levels, from undergraduate to doctoral students. The students would earn degrees in their respective fields but would take specialized courses related to homeland security in areas of research ranging from engineering to veterinary medicine.

Federal funding also is being sought to support research aimed at keeping America safe from attacks over the Internet, creating simulations that could be used to design terrorism-resistant buildings and developing a war-room-like system that continually keeps officials updated about the progress of an attack and efforts to control it.

The list of 18 experts making up the institute's external advisory council includes executives from Boeing Co., United Parcel Service and Hewlett-Packard Co., and government officials from the U.S. departments of State and Defense, as well as state and local emergency management leaders.

During the meeting, these 18 outside experts will join 18 Purdue faculty members to create six discussion groups, one for each of the six critical mission areas in the "National Strategy for Homeland Security." Each group will be made up of six people – three outside experts and three Purdue faculty members.

Purdue has many researchers working in areas related to homeland security and several centers dedicated to these areas of research. Here are some examples of this work:

• Scientists and engineers in the university's Center for Sensing Science and Technology are working to create innovative types of sensors that rapidly detect nuclear materials and biological and chemical agents.

• Researchers in the Purdue Center for Food Safety Engineering are working to develop better ways to protect the nation's food supply from biological and chemical contaminants.

• Scientists at the National Biosecurity Resource Center for Animal Health Emergencies, at Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine, are working to ensure the safety of livestock and pets and to prevent the spread of diseases between animals and people. Veterinary researchers also are studying ways to develop an early warning system for terrorism-related biological attacks by quickly detecting illnesses in pets, which often become sick before humans. Identifying subtle outbreaks in pets might enable scientists to alert the nation to an unfolding terrorist attack and track its possible origins.

• Researchers in health science are studying the risks associated with the transport of chemical, biological and radiological materials by ships, trains, trucks and airplanes.

• A multidisciplinary group of experts in the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security, or CERIAS, are working to improve network and computer security. The first center in the world to take a comprehensive approach to network and computer security, CERIAS includes researchers from sociology, psychology, criminology, political science, ethics, management and economics.

• The Purdue eBusiness Research Center is working toward the development of an effective Indiana homeland defense program. Researchers have developed "synthetic environments," programs that help to predict how millions of people might react to situations ranging from a terrorist attack to product marketing. In a recent demonstration, several hundred thousand people and various government agencies were represented as "synthetic agents," all interacting as they likely would during a real attack. Purdue and Indiana University ran the simulation by linking their IBM supercomputers in a "computational grid" via the universities' high-speed optical network, called I-Light, which enables the exchange of large amounts of information. The work is funded by the National Science Foundation and Indiana's 21st Century Research and Technology Fund.

• Purdue's School of Nuclear Engineering is involved in issues ranging from power plant security to materials and waste management. Engineers in the Purdue University Multidimensional Test Assembly facility evaluate safe nuclear reactor designs under all possible conditions.

• Researchers in the humanities and social sciences also are directly involved in issues of homeland security, studying the historical, economic and political influences of terrorism.

• The Center for Cultural Exchange organizes a series of international and interdisciplinary cultural exchanges focusing on the regions of North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia. The exchanges foster a better understanding between people in the United States and Muslim nations, ultimately reducing tensions and the potential for terrorism.

Writer: Emil Venere, (765) 494-4709,

Source: Dennis Engi, (765) 496-7757,

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: The planning sessions will be in Stewart Center from 12:45-5:30 p.m. Tuesday (11/12) and from 8:15 a.m. to noon on Wednesday (11/13).

Related Web sites:
The National Strategy For Homeland Security
Information Technology at Purdue
Purdue nuclear engineering

Related story:
News release on synthetic environments research

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