Research on CT imaging by both Limor Eger (PhD ’12) and Zachary Sun (PhD ’13) may change the face of airport security by making it easier to detect explosives.
The DHS recently invited Eger and Sun to attend the 2nd UK-US Greenfield Aviation Security Workshop in High Wycombe, United Kingdom. The workshop gave them not only a chance to meet fellow engineers but also graduate students and young faculty from all different fields who have experience with airport security – from sociologists to economists and psychologists to historians.
“It was great to work with people from so many different backgrounds and see the big picture,” said Eger.
The workshop, which took place December 5-8, was organized by the Office for Security & Counter-Terrorism of the UK Home Office and the Science & Technology Directorate of the DHS.
Eger and Sun have been building a relationship with the DHS for some time – both their PhD programs are supported by the DHS-funded Center of Excellence in Explosive Detection ALERT, where ECE Department Ad Interim Chair, David Castañón, serves as an associate director. They had also attended the DHS’s August workshop in New Jersey and were two of only 30 researchers invited back for the second.
“I think it’s tremendous that our students can have this kind of impact on such an important societal challenge,” said Karl. “It’s an example of the kind of experience that we always strive for our students to have.”
The goal of the workshop, said Eger, was to help identify what aviation security should be by 2027 – and what direction research should take to get it there.
“At the end, we worked in groups on different research proposals with the idea of improving airport security,” said Eger. “We’re not sure how the DHS will ultimately use them, but we’re hoping to keep the conversation going long after the workshop.”
In England, she and Sun not only worked with other PhD students but also heard from a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) manager and the head of assurance from Glasgow International Airport who spoke about its 2007 car bomb attack – and the challenges that came with insuring people in the airport were safe and getting the airport back to full functionality as quickly as possible.
“There’s so much that goes into aviation security,” said Sun. “It was great to see how our research fits in.”
-Rachel Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org)