Explosives Detection

Research Areas

Characterization and Elimination of Illicit Explosives

Trace and Vapor Sensors

Bulk Sensors and Sensor Systems

Video Analytics and Signature Analysis

About Us

ALERT Factsheet

Northeastern University
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA  02115
Tel: 617-373-4673
Email:  alert-info@ece.neu.edu
Website:  http://www.northeastern.edu/alert/ 



Michael B. Silevitch, Director of ALERT
Prof. Silevitch is the Director of ALERT and also serves as the Director of the Bernard M. Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems, a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center. Previously he directed of the Center for Electromagnetics Research (an NSF Industry-University Center) and the Center for the Enhancement of Science and Mathematics Education (CESAME). Michael received the BSEE, MSEE and PhD from Northeastern University in 1965, 1966, and, 1971, respectively. He joined the faculty of Northeastern in 1972, and was appointed to the Robert D. Black Endowed Chair in Engineering at Northeastern in 2003. He is an elected fellow of the IEEE.

Project Search

Awareness & Localization of Explosives-Related Threats

The Center of Excellence for Awareness & Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) seeks to conduct transformational research, technology, and educational development to characterize, detect, mitigate, and respond to explosives-related threats facing the country and the world. ALERT's researchers bring strengths in designing advanced sensors; detecting weakly defined targets from a standoff distance; signal processing and sensor integration; characterizing explosives; understanding improvised explosive device (IED) detonator signatures; shock physics; and material science.

Center Activity

Center Spotlights

Finding Solutions for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

ALERT’s Video Analytics for Surveillance and Tracking Project is developing advanced methods at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) to address existing airport security concerns, including “in-the-exit” security breaches (when a person tries to enter a secure terminal area through the exit lane); and “tag-and-track” capabilities (monitoring the path of a suspicious person in real time). Conducted in partnership with Siemens Corporate Research, TSA and CLE, the project has already demonstrated success in solving the “in-the-exit” problem.

Trace Screening and Technology Workshops

ALERT’s Advanced Development for Security Applications (ADSA) Workshop series fosters dialogue on advanced algorithm development among traditional vendors of security systems, academic researchers, the national laboratories, DHS, and security companies. As a result, more than 15 research groups across the United States have engaged in algorithm development for implementation in computed tomography (CT) luggage screening systems, making several sets of validation data available to the ADSA research community.

ALERT’s Trace Explosives Sampling for Security Applications (TESSA) workshop series, similar in style to ADSA, works to determine the baseline for measuring quantitative sampling efficiency. This will enable the development of a protocol against which competing contact sampling approaches can be compared and measured, to help identify appropriate aspects of trace detection where greatest impact can be realized.

Preparing First Responders

ALERT provides hands-on explosives training/workshops for professionals who come into contact with explosives. ALERT offers intensive 2-3 day explosives courses for first responders, week-long training for TSA explosive specialists and a yearly Range Day for bomb squads. One TSA specialist noted: “I learned more during your class than I did in my entire 20-year military career.”

Establishing a Facility for Next Generation Technology Development

With equipment from American Science & Engineering, HXI, Neurologica, and SAIC, ALERT established a laboratory capable of testing the next generation of Advanced Imaging Technologies (AIT) for passenger screening. Current AIT systems do not leverage multi-modal fusion technologies, which are key to advancing AIT. Some of the modalities to be tested include millimeter-wave, X-ray backscatter, infrared thermography and nuclear quadrupole resonance.

Creating Student Pathways to Homeland Security Careers 

ALERT’s unique educational programs develop future homeland security researchers and professionals. Minority Serving Institutions and Community Colleges actively engage through research programs and hands-on education which foster DHS career opportunities. ALERT’s DHS Homeland Security-STEM Career Development Program awards graduate fellowships to full-time engineering students. Participants take courses, engage in career development activities, and conduct research in DHS-related topics at a national lab or industrial venue. In the Gordon Engineering Leadership Program, students participate in an intensive graduate program designed to build a future corps of engineering leadership professionals trained in DHS technologies

Current Research Projects

Thrust 1: Characterization & Elimination of Illicit Explosives

Thrust 2: Trace & Vapor Sensors

Thrust 3: Bulk Sensors & Sensor Systems

Thrust 4: Video Analytics and Signature Analysis

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles


Dunuwille, M. & Yoo, C. S. “Phase Diagram of Ammonium Perchlorate: Raman Spectroscopic Constrains at High Pressures and Temperatures.” J. Chem. Phys., 144, 244701, 22 June 2016. DOI: 10.1063/1.4953909

Furman, D., Dubnikova, F., van Duin, A., Zeiri, Y., & Kosloff, R.  “Reactive Force Field for Liquid Hydrazoic Acid with Applications to Detonation Chemistry.” Journal of Physical Chemistry C, 120(9), February 2016, pp. 4744−4752. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.5b10812

Furman, D., Kosloff, R., & Zeiri, Y. “Mechanism of Intact Adsorbed Molecules Ejection using High Intensity Laser Pulses.” Journal of Physical Chemistry C, April 2016. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.6b03711

Kim, M. & Yoo, C. S., “Phase transitions in I2O5 at high pressures: Raman and x-ray diffraction studies.” Chem. Phys. Lett., 648, 4 February 2016, pp. 13-18. DOI: 10.1016/j.cplett.2016.01.043

Oxley, J.C., Smith, J.L., Donnelly, M.A., Colizza, K., & Rayome, S. “Thermal Stability Studies Comparing IMX-101 (Dinitroanisole/Nitroguanidine/NTO) to Analogous Formulations Containing Dinitrotoluene” Propellants, Explosives, Pyrotechnics 2016, 41(1), pp. 98-113. DOI: 10.1002/prep.201500150

Oxley, J.C., Smith, J.L., Kagan, G.L., Zhang, G., & Swanson, D.S. “Energetic Material/Polymer Interaction Studied by Atomic Force Microscopy.” Propellants, Explosives, Pyrotechnics, January 2016.  DOI: 10.1002/ prep.201500161

Oxley, J.C., Smith, J.L., Porter, M., McLennan, L., Colizza, K., Zeiri, Y., Kosloff, R., & Dubnikova, F. “Synthesis and Degradation of Hexamethylene Triperoxide Diamine (HMTD).” Propellants, Explosives, Pyrotechnics, 41(2), April 2016, pp. 334-350. DOI: 10.1002/prep.201500151

UaCearnaigh, D.C., Baghi, R., & Hope-Weeks, L.J. “Sol-Gel Synthesis of a Series of First Row d-Block Ferrites via the Epoxide Addition Method.” RSC Advances, 6(53), 11 May 2016, pp. 48212-48221. DOI: 10.1039/ C6RA05831K


Bajaj, N., Sabater, A.B., Hickey, J. N., Chiu, G. T.-C., & Rhoads, J. F. “Design and Implementation of a Tunable, Duf ing-Like Electromechanical Resonator via Nonlinear Feedback.” Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems. 2016, 25(1), 2015, pp. 2-10. DOI: 10.1109/JMEMS.2015.2493447

Caron, Z., Mallin, D., Champlin, M., & Gregory, O.J. “A Pre-Concentrator for Explosive Vapor Detection.” Electrochemical Society Transactions, 66(38), 2015. DOI: 10.1149/06638.0059ecst

Caron, Z., Patel, V., Meekins, D., Platek, M., & Gregory, O. J. “Oxide Nanowires for Chemical Sensing.” MRS Advances, 11 March 2016, pp. 1-7. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1557/adv.2016.185

Chaffee-Cipich, M., Hoss, D., Sweat, M., & Beaudoin, S. “Contact between Traps and Surfaces during Contact Sampling of Explosives in Security Settings.” Forensic Science International, Volume 260, 5 January 2016, pp. 85-94. DOI: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2015.12.041

Chapman, M., Mullen, M., Novoa-Ortega, E., Alhasani, M., Elman, J.F., & Euler W.B. “Structural Evolution of Ultrathin Films of Rhodamine 6G on Glass.” Journal of Physical Chemistry C, 120(15), pp. 8289 – 8297. March 2016. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.6b01669

Harrison, A., Otte, A., Carvajal, T., Pinal, R., & Beaudoin, S. “Cohesive Hamaker Constants and Dispersive Surface Energies of RDX, PETN, TNT, and Ammonium Nitrate-based Explosives.” Propellants, Explosives, Pyrotechnics, 40(6), 2 July 2015, pp. 892-897.  DOI: 10.1002/prep.201500021

Hui, Y., Gomez-Diaz, J. S., Qian, Z., Alu’, A., & Rinaldi, M. “Plasmonic Piezoelectric Nanomechanical Resonator for Spectrally Selective Infrared Sensing.” Nature Communications, 7:11249, 15 April 2016. DOI: 10.1038/ ncomms11249

Liu, W., Jin, M., Chen, C., You, R., & Chen, Q. “Implementation of a fast luid dynamics model in OpenFOAM for simulating indoor air low.” Numerical Heat Transfer, Part A: Applications, 47, January 2016, 69(7): pp. 748762.

Rajapaske, R.M, Stone, J.A., Fowler, P.E., & Eiceman, G.A. “Dissociation Enthalpies of Chloride Adducts of Nitrate and Nitrite Explosives Determined by Ion Mobility Spectrometry.” J. Phys. Chem., January 2016, pp. 120, 690-698.

Qian, Z., Hui, Y., Liu, F., Kar, S., & Rinaldi, M. “Graphene-Aluminum Nitride Nano Plate Resonant Infrared Detector.” Nature Microsystems and Nanoengineering, 20 June 2016. DOI: 10.1038/micronano.2016.26

Qi Zhang, H. & Euler, W.B. “Detection of Gas-Phase Explosive Analytes Using Fluorescent Spectroscopy of Thin Films of Xanthene Dyes.” Sensors & Actuators B: Chemical, 225, March 2016, pp. 553-562. DOI: 10.1016/j.


Quesnel, D., Rimai, D., Schaefer, D., Beaudoin, S., Harrison, A., Hoss, D., Sweat, M., & Thomas, M. “Chapter 4. Aspects of Particle Adhesion and Removal.” Developments in Surface Contamination and Cleaning, Volume 1, 2nd Ed., Kohli, R. and Mittal, K., Eds., Wiley, 5 November 2015, pp. 119 – 147. DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-323-



Alvarez, Y., Rodriguez-Vaqueiro, Y., Gonzalez- Valdes, B., Rappaport, C., Las-Heras, F., & Martinez-Lorenzo, J. A. “Three-Dimensional Compressed Sensing-Based Millimeter-Wave Imaging.” IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation, 63(12), 23 September 2015, pp. 5868–5873. DOI: 10.1109/TAP.2015.2481487

Castellanos, J., Betancourt-Pagan, S. A., Robledo-Ortiz, E. J., Pacheco-Londoño, L. C., De Jesús, M. A., & Hernández-Rivera, S. P. “Fabrication of Columnar Sub-microstructures using a Q-switched Nd:YAG Laser in the Nanosecond Time Regime.” Journal of Laser Micro/Nanoengineering, 10(3), December 2015, pp. 263-268. DOI: 10.2961/jlmn.2015.03.0005

Castro-Suarez, J.R., Hidalgo-Santiago, M., & Hernández-Rivera, S.P. “Detection of highly energetic materials on non-re lective substrates using quantum cascade laser spectroscopy.” Appl. Spectrosc., 69(9), September 2015, pp. 1023-1035. DOI: 10.1366/14-07626

Figueroa-Navedo, A.M., Ruiz-Caballero, J.L., Pacheco-Londoño, L.C. & Hernández-Rivera, S.P. “Characterization of α- and β-RDX Polymorphs in Crystalline Deposits on Stainless Steel Substrates.” Crystal Growth & Design, 9 June 2016. DOI: 10.1021/acs.cgd.6b00078

Ghazi, G., Rappaport, C., & Martinez-Lorenzo, J. A., “Improved SAR imaging contour extraction using smooth sparsity-driven regularization.” IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters, Vol. 15, No. 2, February 2016, pp. 266 -269.

Gonzalez-Valdes, B., Alvarez, Y., Mantzavinos, S., Rappaport, C. M., Las-Heras, F., & Martinez-Lorenzo, J. A.

“Improving Security Screening: A Comparison of Multistatic Radar Con igurations for Human Body

Imaging,” IEEE Antennas and Propagation Magazine, Vol. PP, No.99, 20 June 2016, pp. 1-1. DOI: 10.1109/ MAP.2016.2569447

Gonzalez-Valdes, B., Alvarez, Y., Rodriquez-Vaqueiro, Y., Arboleya-Arboleya, A., Garcia-Pino, A., Rappaport, C., Las-Heras, F., & Martinez-Lorenzo, J. A. “Millimeter Wave Imaging Architecture for On-The-Move Whole Body Imaging.” IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation, 64(6), June 2016, pp. 2328-2338. DOI: 10.1109/TAP.2016.2539372

Williams, K., Tirado, L., Chen, Z., Gonzalez-Valdes, B., Martinez-Lorenzo, J. A., & Rappaport, C. “Ray Tracing for Simulation of Millimeter Wave Whole Body Imaging Systems.” IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation, 63(12), 05 October, 2015, pp. 5913–5918. DOI:10.1109/TAP.2015.2486801


Camps, O., Guo, M., Hebble, T., Karanam, S., Lehmann, O., Li, Y., Radke, R.J., Wu, Z., & Xiong, F.  “From the Lab to the Real World: Re-Identi ication in an Airport Camera Network.”  IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems for Video Technology, Special Issue on Group and Crowd Behavior Analysis for Intelligent Multi-Camera Video Surveillance, 20 April 2016. DOI: 10.1109/TCSVT.2016.2556538

Jin, P., Bouman, C., & Sauer, K. “A Model-Based Image Reconstruction Algorithm with Simultaneous Beam Hardening Correction for X-Ray CT.” IEEE Transactions on Computational Imaging, Vol. 1, No. 3, September 2015, pp. 200-216.

Martin, L., Tuysuzoglu, A., Karl, W. C., & Ishwar, P. “Learning-based object identi ication and segmentation using dual-energy CT images for security.” IEEE Transactions on Image Processing, Vol 24, No. 11, November 2015, pp. 4069 - 4081.

Rohban, M., Saligrama, V., & Vaziri, D.M. “Minimax Optimal Sparse Signal Recovery with Poisson Statistics.” IEEE

Transactions on Signal Processing, 64(13), February 2016, pp. 3495 – 3508. DOI: 10.1109/TSP.2016.2529588

Tracey, B. H. & Miller, E. L. “Stabilizing dual-energy X-ray computed tomography reconstructions using patch-based regularization.” Inverse Problems, Vol. 31, No. 10, September 2015.


Peer-Reviewed Conference Proceedings


Levine, R. (Abstract only) “Creation of Pyrotechnic Foams.” North American Thermal Analysis Society International Conference, Orlando, FL, 15-19 August 2016.

McLennan, L. (Abstract only) “Raman for Tracking Thermal Effects in Energetic Materials.”  North American Thermal Analysis Society International Conference, Orlando, FL, 15-19 August 2016.

Oxley, J. “Hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (HMTD).” Trace Explosive Detection Workshop, Charlottesville, VA, 4-8 April 2016.

Oxley, J. “Ion Suppression by Solvent in LC-MS.” New Trends in Research Energetic Materials, Pardubice, CZ, 21 April 2016.

Oxley, J.  “Issues in Explosive Detection: Sampling.” SciX - The Great Scienti?ic Exchange, Providence, RI, 18 September 2015.

Oxley, J. “Peroxides and other HME.” HME Working Group, Washington DC, 4 September 2015.

Swanson, D.  (Abstract only) “Noncontact Electrostatic Swabbing of Energetic Materials.”  Trace Explosives Detection Workshop, Charlottesville, VA, 4-8 April 2016.

Swanson, D. (Abstract only) “The Role of Thermal Analysis in Screening and Analyzing Cocrystallization of Energetic Materials.”  North American Thermal Analysis Society International Conference, Orlando, FL, 15-19 August 2016.


Caron, Z. & Gregory, O. “Trace Explosive Detection using Zinc Oxide and Copper Oxide Nanowire Catalysts.” Federation of Analytical Chemistry and Spectroscopy Society – FACSS/SciX Conference, Providence, RI, September 2015.

Caron, Z., Mallin, D., Champlin, M., & Gregory, O. “Trace Explosives Detection using Zinc Oxide Nanowires.” 250th American Chemical Society National Meeting, Boston, MA, August 2015.

Caron, Z., Patel, V., Meekins, D., Platek, M., & Gregory, O.J. “Oxide Nanowires for Chemical Sensing.” Fall MRS Meeting, Boston, MA, December 2015.

Harden, G.H., Cortes-Herrera, L.E., & Hoffman, A.J. “Stability of Optical Trajectories in Rotationally Asymmetric Multipass Cells.” Conference on Lasers and Electro-optics, San Jose, CA, June 2016.

Platek, M.J. & Gregory, O.J. “A Compilation of Cold Case Investigations using Scanning Electron Microscopy.” SPIE Scanning Microscopies Symposium, Santa Barbara, CA, October 2015.

Qian, Z., Hui, Y., Liu, F., Kar, S. & Rinaldi, M. “Chemical Sensing based on Graphene-Aluminum Nitride Nano Plate Resonators.” Proceedings of the IEEE Sensors 2015 Conference, Busan, Korea, 1-4 November 2015, pp. 1-4. DOI: 10.1109/ICSENS.2015.7370507

Qian, Z., Hui, Y. & Rinaldi, M. “Effects of Volume Scaling in AlN Nano Plate Resonators on Quality Factor.” Proceedings of the IEEE International Frequency Control Symposium (IFCS 2016), New Orleans, LA, 9 May 2016.


Brevett, T., Gonzalez-Valdes, B., & Rappaport, C. “Identifying weak dielectric objects on conductive surfaces in millimeter-wave imaging.” 2015 IEEE International Symposium on Antennas and Propagation, Vancouver, Canada, 21 July 2015, pp. 683 – 684.

Gonzalez-Valdes, B., Rappaport, C., Martinez Lorenzo, J. A., Alvarez, Y., & Las-Heras, F. “Imaging effectiveness of multistatic radar for human body imaging.” 2015 IEEE International Symposium on Antennas and Propagation & USNC/URSI National Radio Science Meeting, Vancouver, BC, 21 July 2015, pp. 681-682.

Heredia Juesas, J., Allan, G., Molaei, A., Tirado, L., Blackwell, W., & Martinez-Lorenzo, J. A. “Consensus-based Imaging using ADMM for a Compressive Re lector Antenna.” AP-S 2015 — IEEE AP-S International Symposium, Vancouver, Canada, 19-24 July 2015.

Rodriguez Vaqueiro, Y., Alvarez, Y., Gonzalez-Valdes, B., Las-Heras, F., & Martinez-Lorenzo, J. A. “Fast Multistatic Fourier-based Forward and Inverse Operators for Compressive Sensing Imaging.” AP-S 2015 — IEEE AP-S International Symposium, Vancouver, Canada, 19-24 July 2015.


Bekiroglu, K., Lagoa, C. & Sznaier, M. “Low-Order Model Identi ication of MIMO Systems from Noisy and Incomplete Data.” IEEE 54th Conf. on Decision and Control (CDC), Osaka, Japan, 15-18 December 2015, pp. 4029-4034. DOI: 10.1109/CDC.2015.7402846

Castanon, G., Chen, Y., Zhang, Z., & Saligrama, V. “Ef icient Activity Retrieval through Semantic Graph Queries.” Association for Computing Machinery Multimedia Conference 2015 (ACM MM 2015), Brisbane, Australia, 26-30 October 2015.

Cheng, Y. & Sznaier, M. “Identi ication of LPV Systems with LFT Parametric Dependence Via Convex Optimization.”  IEEE 54th Conf. on Decision and Control (CDC), Osaka, Japan, 15-18 December 2015, pp.  14591464. DOI: 10.1109/CDC.2015.7402416

Cheng, Y., Sznaier, M.  & Lagoa, C. “Robust Superstabilizing Control Design from Open Lopp Experimental Input/Output Data.” Proc. of the 17th IFAC Symposium on System Identi?ication, Beijing, PRC, 19-21 October 2015, pp. 1331-1336.

Cheng, Y., Wang, Y., Camps, O. & Sznaier, M.  “The Interplay Between Big Data and Sparsity in Systems Identi ication.” Proc. of the 17th IFAC Symposium on System Identi?ication, Beijing, PRC, 19-21 October 2015, invited tutorial paper, pp. 1285-1292. DOI: 10.1016/j.ifacol.2015.12.309

Cheng, Y., Wang, Y., Camps, O. & Sznaier, M. “Subspace Clustering with Priors via Sparse Quadratically Constrained Quadratic Programming.” 2016 IEEE Conf. Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), Las Vegas, NV, 26 June – 1 July 2016, pp. 5204-5212.

Dicle, C., Camps, O. & Sznaier. M. “Solving Temporal Puzzles.” 2016 IEEE Conf. Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), Las Vegas, NV, 26 June – 1 July 2016, pp. 5896-5905.

Jin, P., Ye, D., & Bouman, C. “Joint Metal Artifact Reduction and Segmentation of CT Images Using DictionaryBased Image Prior and Continuous-Relaxed Potts Model.” IEEE Int’l Conf. Image Processing, September 27-30, 2015.

Karanam, S., Li, Y., & Radke, R.J.  “Particle Dynamics and Multi-Channel Feature Dictionaries for Robust Visual Tracking.”  26th British Machine Vision Conference (BMVC 2015), Swansea, UK, 7-10 September 2015. DOI: 10.5244/C.29.183

Karanam, S., Li, Y., & Radke, R.J.  “Person Re-Identi ication with Discriminatively Trained Viewpoint Invariant Dictionaries.” International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV15), Santiago, Chile, 11-18 December 2015.

DOI: 10.1109/ICCV.2015.513

Li, Y., Karanam, S., & Radke, R.J.  “Multi-Shot Human Re-Identi ication Using Adaptive Fisher Discriminant Analysis.”  26th British Machine Vision Conference (BMVC 2015), Swansea, UK, 7-10 September 2015. DOI: 10.5244/C.29.73

Lopez, J. A., Sznaier, M., & Camps, O. “Unsupervised Fault Detection Using Semide inite Programming.” IEEE 54th Conf. on Decision and Control (CDC), Osaka, Japan, 15-18 December 2015, pp. 3798-3803. DOI: 10.1109/ CDC.2015.7402809

Nan, F., Wang, J., & Saligrama, V. “Feature-budgeted random forest.” Proceedings of the 32nd International Conference on Machine Learning, JMLR: W&CP, Volume 37, Lille, France, 6-11 July 2015.

Rezaee, H., Tracey, B., & Miller, E. “Sparse View Compton Scatter Tomography with Energy Resolved Data.” SIAM Conference on Imaging Science, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 23-26 May 2016.

Sun, Z., Karl, W. C., & Castanon, D. ``Enhancing Nuclear Resonance Fluorescence with Coded Aperture for Security Based Imaging,’’ in Computational Imaging, Bouman, C. A. & Sauer, K., editors, Proc. of Electronic Imaging, San Francisco, CA, 14-18 February 2016.

Tuysuzoglu, A., Khoo, Y., & Karl, W. C. “Variable Splitting Techniques for Discrete Tomography.” Proc. IEEE International Conference on Image Processing, Phoenix Arizona, 25-28 Sept 2016.

Wang, J., Trapeznikov, K., & Saligrama, V. “Ef icient Learning by Directed Acyclic Graph for Resource Constrained Prediction.” 2015 Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS), Montreal, Canada, 7-12 December 2015.

Wang, X., Bouman, C.A., & Midkiff, S.P. “High Performance Model Based Image Reconstruction.” 2015 Supercomputing Conference (SC’15), ACM, 2015.

Wang, X., Mohan, K.A., Kisner, S.J., Bouman, C., & Midkiff, S. “Fast Voxel Line Update for Time-Space Image Reconstruction.” 2016 IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing (ICASSP), Shanghai, China, pp. 1209-1213.

Wang, X., Sabne, A., Kisner, S.J., Raghunathan, A., Bouman, C.A., & Midkiff, S.P. “High Performance Model Based Image Reconstruction.” 21st ACM SIGPLAN Symposium on Principles and Practice of Parallel Programming (PPoPP), 2:1-2:12, ACM, 12 March 2016. DOI: 10.1145/2851141.2851163

Wang, Y., Sznaier, M., Camps, O. & Pait, F. “Identi ication of a Class of Generalized Autoregressive Conditional Heteroskedasticity (GARCH) Models with Applications to Covariance Propagation.” IEEE 54th Conf. on Decision and Control (CDC), Osaka, Japan, 15-18 December 2015, pp. 795-800. DOI: 10.1109/CDC.2015.7402327

Yilmaz, B. & Sznaier, M. “Ef icient Identi ication of Wiener Systems Using a Combination of Atomic Norm Minimization and Interval Matrix Properties.”  IEEE 54th Conf. on Decision and Control (CDC), Osaka, Japan, 15-18 December 2015, pp.  109-114. DOI: 10.1109/CDC.2015.7402094

Yuan, Y., Tracey, B., & Miller, E. “Performance Bounds for Sinogram Decomposition and Potential Bene its of Multi-Energy Data.” 4th International Conference on Image Formation in X-Ray Computed Tomography, Kongresshotel Bamberg, Germany, 18-22 July 2016.

Yuan, Y., Tracey, B., & Miller, E. “Robust X-ray based material identi ication using multi-energy sinogram decomposition in Anomaly Detection and Imaging with X-Rays (ADIX).” Proceedings of SPIE Vol. 9847, Baltimore MD, April 17-21, 2016.

Zhang, Z. & Saligrama, V. “Zero-Shot Based on Latent Embeddings.” IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR 2016), Las Vegas, Nevada, 26 June – 1 July 2016.

Zhang, Z. & Saligrama, V. “Zero-Shot Learning via Semantic Similarity Learning.” International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV15), Santiago, Chile, 11-18 December 2015.

Zhang, X., Camps, O., & Sznaier, M. “Ef icient Temporal Sequence Comparison and Classi ication using Gram Matrix Embeddings On a Riemannian Manifold.” 2016 IEEE Conf. Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), Las Vegas, NV, 26 June – 1 July 2016, pp. 4498-4507.

Zhang, Z., Chen, Y., & Saligrama, V. “Ef icient Deep Learning Algorithms for Deep Supervised Hashing.” IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR 2016), Las Vegas, Nevada, 26 June – 1 July 2016.

Zhang, Z., Chen, Y., & Saligrama, V. “Group Membership Prediction.” International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV15), Santiago, Chile, 11-18 December 2015.


Student Opportunities at ALERT
Research Experiences for Undergraduates

Every year, the center selects science or engineering undergraduate students to work at ALERT laboratories on research projects related to the emerging technology of explosives detection.These REU students will have the opportunity to work for 10 weeks at ALERT facilities in the areas of blast mitigation, Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) applications, Remote Raman Spectroscopy (RRS), mechanical response and performance of structures.


ALERT Scholars

The ALERT Scholars Program offers freshmen engineering students the opportunity to become involved in research and K-12 outreach related to the ALERT Research Center, in addition to other research and K-12 programs on campus.

ALERT Scholars attend research presentations, engage in discussion with upper-class  mentors, participate in research experiences under the guidance of a faculty member and learn about interesting outreach opportunities.

We believe that the ALERT Scholars Program helps engineering undergraduates to consider the many paths open to them as potential researchers, educators and engineering leaders. Participation in the ALERT Scholars Program, coupled with co-op and other experiential learning options, will position the students well to bring engineering solutions to the global marketplace.


ALERT Science and Engineering Workforce Development Program

The ALERT DHS HS-STEM (Homeland Security Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Career Development Program was established in 2011 with a grant to Northeastern University from the Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate. In 2014, ALERT received a separate award from DHS in connection with the ALERT Phase 2 Center of Excellence to continue the program.

In 2015, the program was expanded and renamed to award both undergraduate and graduate fellowships to full-time students pursuing BS, MS or PhD degrees in the science and engineering disciplines related to ALERT’s research. Selected students will receive full tuition and a stipend (up to $2,700 per month for up to three years for graduate students and up to $1,200 per month for up to two years for undergraduate students). Multi-year continuation will be granted based upon satisfactory progress.

Award recipients will engage in research work, class work and career development activities that will provide them with a skill set that will be further strengthened by the completion of two 10-week internships that complement ALERT approved research or are operational venues that work in the ALERT field of study. Read More about the program.


Explosives Courses for First Responders

An educated force of first responders is critical for insuring public safety. URI’s expert faculty provides numerous courses to help inform and instruct professionals that come in contact with explosives. These courses are offered in intensive two -three day-long sessions on a yearly basis.

Current Explosives Course Schedule


High Tech Tools & Toys Lab

The High-Tech Tools and Toys Laboratory is a discovery-based educational laboratory. The High Tech Tools and Toys (HTT&T) laboratories engage freshmen in hands-on learning activities using state-of-the-art technology products. The laboratory creates an exciting problem-solving environment where generic engineering skills (e.g. data analysis, writing and project planning) are learned.



Developing a Next Generation Screening System to Keep First Responders Safe, and People in Motion

ALERT is working on developing the first inexpensive, high resolution millimeter-wave radar (mm-wave) system for the purpose of detecting and identifying potential suicide bombers in motion and at a safe distance.  Current millimeter-wave imaging systems for security screening require people to stop and stand in front of the scanning system. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has identified that being able to detect security threats without interrupting the motion of the person under test will be one of the most valuable features of the next generation personnel screening systems [Checkpoint of the Future Roadmap 2020, now Smart Security].

Professors Carey Rappaport and Jose Martinez are leading a team that wants to make that feature a reality. ALERT’s mm-wave radar system uses multiple radar sensors simultaneously. By coordinating transmitters and receivers from both sides of a walkway, the full picture of a subject moving between them is formed. At present, mm-wave radar is the only modality that can both penetrate and sense beneath clothing as far as 50 meters away.


ALERT researchers work to develop robust Trace Explosives Aids for Scent (TEAS).

Prof. Jimmie Oxley and her research team developed a method of polymer encapsulation that is used to create safe trace explosives sources. Their research results show that Polycarbonate microspheres containing only a low percentage of Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP) last for years, yet produce pure TATP vapor when heated at the designated program rate. Although they contain small amounts of actual explosives material, these TEAS are called pseudo-explosives because they have no potential to explode, thus providing users with safe access to stored hazardous explosives at trace levels.

Currently, 29 groups have tested prototypes of ALERT’s training aids, including NY MTA Police, MA State Police, Toronto Police, and industry collaborators such as K-9 Search On Site, and FLIR Systems, Inc.


Video Analytic Surveillance Transition Project (VAST)

Catching “Counter-Flow” Intruders in Airports with Video Anomaly Sensing Technology:
An advanced video analytics technology may soon enable airports across the nation to avoid costly shutdowns and delays by detecting gate skippers before they enter secure areas. A testbed for this technology installed at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) is detecting potential violations at a rate of 99.9 percent with an average of only five false alarms per week. The system enables airport security to use video analysis to detect “counterflow” (e.g., someone moving against the ?flow of foot traffic to skip screening lanes to reach boarding gates through the exit lanes). Working with airport ­officials, researchers from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology (S&T) Center of Excellence for Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) installed the testbed to provide real-time warning of counterflow in controlled access areas of the airport.


Advanced Developments for Security Applications

ALERT has developed the “Advanced Development for Security Applications (ADSA).” workshop series. Formerly named the “Algorithm Development for Security Applications” workshop series, the name was changed in 2014 after the ADSA10 to reflect the fact that the scope of these workshops expanded well beyond algorithms as the series progressed. For example, the following topics for development are now being addressed in these workshops: energy sources (e.g., X-ray, neutrons), sensors (e.g., photon counting X-ray detectors, trace), concept of operations, hardening, deterrence, simulants and testing. Attendees include people from vendors, academia, DHS, TSA and National Labs. Each workshop features presentations from experts in the field, along with in-depth discussions both during and after the presentations. Final reports written for each workshop include an overview of the workshop, recommendations, and slides presented. Read more about ADSA...


Handheld IED Detection Device with Firestorm Emergency Services

ALERT research out of Missouri University of Science and Technology, led by Prof. Daryl Beetner, is currently working to develop methods to indirectly detect and locate explosives by identifying the electromagnetic emissions from these electronic initiators. This approach has the advantage that a device can potentially be detected from tens or even hundreds of meters away in a very short period of time using relatively small, inexpensive, low-power sensors.


ALERT, Square One partnership leads to NSF Small Business Award

ALERT researchers at Northeastern University partnered with Square One Systems Design to win a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center – Small Business award in the area of automated landmine detection.  This promising partnership leverages the strengths of academic and industry experts for a project with broad humanitarian and research potential. The partnership involves pairing Square One’s Walking Tri-Sphere (WTS) robot with ALERT’s Ground-Penetrating Radar solution.


New Advanced Imaging Technology Facility established at Northeastern

The newest of ALERT's test facilities, the objective of the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) facility is the creation of an unbiased, academic-oriented “testbed” for development and evaluation of multi-modal sensors and algorithms for whole body imaging. The testbed is a collaborative effort led by ALERT Deputy Director Carey Rappaport.

Research Partners
Northeastern University(Lead)

Founded in 1898, Northeastern University is a private research university located in the heart of Boston. Northeastern is a leader in worldwide experiential learning, urban engagement, and interdisciplinary research that meets global and societal needs. Our broad mix of experience-based education programs – our signature cooperative education program.


Boston University

Boston University is an international, comprehensive, private research university, committed to educating students to be reflective, resourceful individuals ready to live, adapt, and lead in an interconnected world. Boston University is committed to generating new knowledge to benefit society.


Purdue University (Strategic Partner)

Purdue University is a vast laboratory for discovery. The university is known not only for science, technology, engineering, and math programs, but also for our imagination, ingenuity, and innovation. It’s a place where those who seek an education come to make their ideas real — especially when those transformative discoveries lead to scientific, technological, social, or humanitarian impact.


University of Rhode Island

The University of Rhode Island is the State’s public learner-centered research university.  The University is committed to enriching the lives of its students through its land, sea, and urban grant traditions.  Students, faculty, staff, and alumni are united in one common purpose: to learn and lead together.


Ben-Gurion University of Negev

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev aspires to be among the best inter-disciplinary research universities in the world, a leader in scientific innovation, inter-disciplinary research and applied sciences – all of which impact daily life. It is committed to social and environmental responsibility and is working to develop the Negev, Israel and the world.


The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Established in 1925, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem  is a large, well-established research and teaching institution, encompassing humanities, science, medicine, education and agriculture. HU researchers figure at the forefront of international science – from biotechnology and computer science to astrophysics and cancer research, from microbiology to solar energy and genetic engineering, as well as the humanities, including Jewish studies, social sciences and law.


New Mexico State University

We are a comprehensive research, land-grant university excelling in teaching, research and public service that fuels the economy and prepares students to be productive citizens.


Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the nation’s oldest technological university. For almost two centuries, Rensselaer has maintained its reputation for providing an undergraduate education of undisputed intellectual rigor based on educational innovation in the laboratory, classroom, and studio.


Texas Tech University

Founded in 1923, Texas Tech is located on the South Plains of West Texas and carries the distinction of being the largest comprehensive higher education institution in the western two-thirds of the state of Texas. Texas Tech University is dedicated to shaping the future of their students by providing them a comprehensive, quality education that prepares them to enter careers in a timely fashion.


Tufts University

Tufts University School of Engineering educates engineers committed to the innovative and ethical application of technology to solve societal problems. The school provides national leadership in enhancing the role and visibility of the engineering profession in the education of youth and the development and implementation of public policy. Our students, faculty, and alumni, develop and disseminate transformational knowledge and technologies that further society’s well-being and sustainability. Strategic areas of emphasis include programs in health, sustainability, and the human-technology interface.


University of Notre Dame

The University of Notre Dame is a Catholic academic community of higher learning, animated from its origins by the Congregation of Holy Cross. The University is dedicated to the pursuit and sharing of truth for its own sake. As a Catholic university, one of its distinctive goals is to provide a forum where, through free inquiry and open discussion, the various lines of Catholic thought may intersect with all the forms of knowledge found in the arts, sciences, professions, and every other area of human scholarship and creativity.


University of Puerto Rico at Mayaquez

The Mayagüez Campus of the University of Puerto Rico is a co-educational, bilingual, and non-sectarian school comprising the Colleges of Agricultural Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Business Administration, Engineering, and the Division of Continuing Education and Professional Studies.


Washington State University

Washington State University is a land-grant university that conducts transformational research and provides world-class education to more than 25,000 students statewide. Students are taught in an environment enriched by research activities and graduate study.


Industrial Advisory Board Members

American Science & Engineering
American Science and Engineering specializes in detection technologies that can uncover dangerous and elusive threats. AS&E’s x-ray inspection systems are used by governments and corporations around the world.

Analog Devices, Inc.
Analog Devices, Inc. is a leading designer and manufacturer of high-performance analog and microwave integrated circuits and complete integrated solutions.  For over 50 years ADI has been at the forefront of innovation in the area of sensing and signal processing for commercial as well as Aerospace and Defense applications.  Analog Devices has Massachusetts design centers in Wilmington, Chelmsford, and Norwood.

HXI, a subsidiary of Renaissance Electronics & Communications, is a leading supplier of millimeter-wave products, including LNAs, power amplifiers, mixers, detectors, oscillators, switches, transmitters, receivers and transceivers for radars, communications systems and sensors.

John Adams Innovation Institute
The John Adams Innovation Institute is the economic development division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. The Innovation Institute serves as the convergence point in creating productive, collaborative partnerships between Massachusetts companies and academic research institutions to compete for business, talent and opportunities in the global marketplace.

Kiernan Group Holdings
Kiernan Group Holdings – (KGH) utilizes competitive intelligence, market analysis, tailored case studies, and vast executive experience in diverse fields to provide expert insight into emerging challenges. Kiernan Group Holdings provides comprehensive access to insular markets with an insightful understanding of existing wants and needs for federal, defense, intelligence and law enforcement communities.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is a premier research and development institution for science and technology applied to national security. They are responsible for ensuring that the nation’s nuclear weapons remain safe, secure, and reliable. LLNL also applies its expertise to prevent the spread and use of weapons of mass destruction and strengthen homeland security.

Morpho Detection
Morpho integrates computed tomography (CT), Raman Spectroscopy, trace (ITMS™ technology), X-ray and X-ray Diffraction technologies into solutions that can make security activities more accurate, productive and efficient, as well as less intrusive. Morpho’s detection solutions are deployed to help protect people and property in some of the most important and sensitive world locations.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory 
PNNL is one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) ten national laboratories, managed by DOE’s Office of Science. PNNL also performs research for other DOE offices as well as government agencies, universities, and industry to deliver breakthrough science and technology to meet today’s key national needs.

Pendar Technologies
Pendar Technologies is a privately held product development company focused on bringing to market breakthrough portable analysis and monitoring systems that include proprietary data science driven analysis modules. With experts in innovative spectroscopy and data science, the company has a pipeline of products in development. The company was formed by a merger of Pendar Medical and Eos Photonics in 2015.

Rapiscan Labs
Rapiscan Labs provides state of the art security screening products, solutions and services that meet the most demanding threat detection needs of customers worldwide, while improving operational efficiency. The technical staff at Rapiscan Laboratories, the R&D arm of Rapiscan Systems, is focused on leading edge physics, algorithm and software based research and development work in the detection of explosives, nuclear material and other contraband

Raytheon Company
Raytheon Company is a technology and innovation leader specializing in defense, security and civil markets throughout the world. With a history of innovation spanning 91 years, Raytheon provides state-of-the-art electronics, mission systems integration and other capabilities in the areas of sensing; effects; and command, control, communications and intelligence systems; as well as a broad range of mission support services.

Over 50 Other Industrial Collaborators Include:

Astrophysics, Inc.
L-3 Communications
Physical Sciences, Inc.
Square One
TeleSecurity Sciences
United Technologies Research Corporation

ALERT Resources
ALERT Datasets

Currently ALERT has three active datasets available to the research community that have developed out of transition tasks supported by DHS. The datasets which are currently available are related to ALERT’s CT Segmentation Initiative, Reconstruction Initiative, and Automated Threat Recognition (ATR) Initiative. If you would like to inquire about accessing this data, please complete our Dataset Request Form.


ALERT 101: Methods of Chemical Characterization and Mitigation
and Mitigation ALERT Thrust Leaders Jimmie Oxley and Steve Beaudoin provide commentary about the crucial role of chemical characterization in the mitigation of explosives-related threats, and how ALERT research is helping first responders and security personnel to detect and eliminate threats before they can be used for malicious reasons.

ALERT 101: Video Analytics ALERT researchers Richard Radke, Octavia Camps, and Venkatesh Saligrama explain what it is, how it’s used, and how they teach computers how to see and learn.

ALERT 101: Airport Screening Technologies We invite you to watch the first episode of ALERT 101 which focuses on the applications of Millimeter Wave Scanning and Backscatter X-ray in Airport Security Screening.