March 10, 2005
Purdue faculty working to protect the homeland
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Purdue University has dozens of researchers working in areas related to homeland security and several centers dedicated to these areas of research. The following is a list of some of these experts and their research.
Michael Ladisch, Distinguished Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, is involved in work to develop a new type of sensor that incorporates natural proteins with electronic chips to rapidly detect a variety of toxins, including substances that might be used by terrorists in food, water or the air. The proteins could be antibodies that recognize specific toxins. The technology has broader applications than homeland security because it will likely be used in many food processing and inspection operations to screen for pathogens and ensure the safety of our food supply.
Also involved in the protein biochips work is Rashid Bashir, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering. Bashir is leading other sensor-related research, including work to create devices capable of detecting airborne contaminants as minute as a single virus particle.
Lefteri Tsoukalas, a professor of nuclear engineering and head of the School of Nuclear Engineering, has led research to develop methods that could be used to prevent attacks against the nation's aging and increasingly vulnerable power grid. This vulnerability was seen in the summer of 2003 when a series of problems originating in Ohio led to widespread power failures in other parts of the nation that left about 50 million customers without power. The work focuses on developing a system for averting power failures by automatically adapting to the daily fluctuations in electricity consumption. The same sort of system also could protect against terrorism by quickly isolating the site of an attack from the rest of the power grid.
Alok Chaturvedi, director of the Purdue Homeland Security Institute and an associate professor in the Krannert School of Management, has led work to develop complex supercomputer-based simulations used to predict how terrorist attacks might unfold in a major metropolitan area. The purpose of computational homeland security is to determine the best courses of action for law enforcement, emergency response agencies and other personnel in an unfolding crisis.
Edward J. Delp, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, is working to develop a method that will enable authorities to trace documents to specific printers, a technique law-enforcement agencies could use to investigate counterfeiting, forgeries and homeland security matters. Also leading that work are Jan Allebach, a professor of electrical and computer engineering; and George Chiu, a professor of mechanical engineering. Counterfeiters often digitally scan currency and then use color laser and inkjet printers to produce bogus bills. Forgers use the same methods to make fake passports and other documents. Delp's technique uses two methods to trace a document: first, by analyzing a document to identify characteristics that are unique to each printer, and, second, by designing printers that embed individualized characteristics in documents. Delp also is an expert in digital watermarking, or steganography, a procedure in which hidden patterns are embedded into an image or document on the World Wide Web. The patterns can then be used to verify the image as authentic, protecting intellectual property rights for people who create digital media. The same digital watermarking, however, might be used by terrorists to embed hidden messages into images or documents. Digital media can be screened for hidden terrorist messages by using "steganalysis."
Shimon Nof, a professor of industrial engineering, has worked with transportation officials in Indiana to help determine how to best manage transportation resources following a terrorist event.
Jon Fricker, a professor of civil engineering, is involved in a project to learn how various state transportation departments are addressing security issues. The information will be included in a report to help Indiana officials determine how to best protect its own "transportation assets." These assets vary from state to state. For example, officials in some states consider roads and bridges to be their greatest transportation assets, while officials in other states believe specialized equipment and expert personnel are the most critical elements to be protected.
Qingyan (Yan) Chen, a professor of mechanical engineering, is involved in research focusing on indoor air quality and developing methods to guard against "sick building syndrome" and the release of toxic substances inside buildings by terrorists.
Steve Beaudoin, an associate professor of chemical engineering, is involved in research related to the development of new types of biological sensors that could have applications in homeland security. Such sensors might one day be snaked into a person's veins and arteries to quickly analyze the blood or could be used to detect toxins or organisms in the environment or in drinking-water supplies.
Agroterrorism is one of the many concerns officials must confront in fighting terrorism. In light of that, Purdue University Extension and the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) are working with state and federal officials to focus on plant biosecurity measures and information. Purdue also is coordinating the national EDEN Homeland Security Project. EDENs Plant Biosecurity Management online course explains the emergency management processes that would take place in the event of a crop biosecurity event. Rural Security: Protecting Family, Friends and Farm helps people living in rural areas know how they can bolster homeland security. The Indiana Agricultural Homeland Security Strategy sets goals for plant and animal biosecurity efforts in Indiana. Purdue partnered with Indiana agricultural leaders and the State Emergency Management Agency to help improve the states ability to detect, diagnose and eradicate possible agrosecurity threats to crops and livestock production in Indiana. Disaster Daves Misadventures is an interactive learning activity aimed at Jr. and Sr. High-School kids to help them be better prepared for all types of disasters, including homeland security-related disasters. The Purdue Plant and Pest Diagnostic Laboratory is connected to a network of diagnostic labs that share information on disease outbreaks. The information would be vital in the event of a widespread attack. In Indiana, the Board of Animal Health, in cooperation with Purdue's Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, has a system for alerting authorities and the public in the event of an animal-disease outbreak. Experts leading this work are Steve Cain, EDEN Homeland Security Project disaster communications specialist; Gail Ruhl, director of the Plant and Pest Diagnostic Laboratory; and Leon Thacker, Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory director.
Eugene Spafford, director of Purdue's Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security, or CEREAS, is an expert in computer security. Spafford, also a professor of computer science, has served on a national committee advising President George W. Bush on information-technology matters.
Larry Glickman, a professor of epidemiology and environmental medicine at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine, in collaboration with colleagues at Purdue and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been involved in research using a national pet health database to assess whether dogs and cats are sentinels that could provide early warning for terrorist attacks. Glickman is working with Banfield Pet Hospitals on the design of this Purdue-based pet-surveillance system, called the VMD-SOS, which stands for Veterinary Medical Data-Surveillance of Syndromes. Banfield Pet Hospital, with approximately 300 veterinary hospitals located in 43 states, electronically records health information for about 60,000 cats and dogs seen each week in their practices.
Graham Cooks, Purdue's Henry Bohn Hass Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, is leading a continuing project to create portable, lightweight sensors that use mass spectrometry, a technique for identifying chemical and biological agents in the air. The aim is to develop extremely sensitive instruments capable of quickly detecting without false alarms only a few parts of a hazardous substance per billion parts of air. New sensors based on this technology might be ideal for use at airports and public buildings, providing advance warning of an attack by sensing tiny quantities of toxins before they are actually unleashed. The instrument, a miniature ion-trap mass spectrometer, has been studied and improved in the Purdue lab for more than 15 years. Cook's work has led to the creation of Griffin Analytical Technologies in 2001 to manufacture miniaturized versions of mass spectrometers. Griffin now employs 18 people at the Purdue Research Park and sells the devices for approximately $100,000 apiece.
Chemistry Professor Fred Regnier is leading a research team that is focusing on using "smart bioadhesives" to selectively trap targeted biological threats, which are subsequently identified using special pattern-recognition software. The experimental sensor technology uses chips covered with numerous microscopic squares. Some of the squares, which are so small that 10 of them could fit across the width of a human hair, can be coated with antibodies that attract a specific biological agent, such as anthrax. Pattern-recognition software could be used to recognize if spots were beginning to form on the squares containing the antibodies, setting off an alarm. The chips in the sensors could then be removed and taken to a lab to be analyzed. The researchers have developed a process in which rubberlike "stamps" are used to manufacture chips, perhaps leading to a method for producing inexpensive sensors. These stamps are coated with a solution of antibodies, just as a printing stamp is coated with ink and then used to produce numerous chips. The goal is to devise a method to manufacture sensors affordable enough to be placed by the thousands in public places, much like the ubiquitous smoke detector. Sensors based on the same technology might have several important public-health applications, as well.
Scott A. McLuckey, a chemistry professor, is conducting research on the use of proteins as "biomarkers" for identification of toxins, viruses and bacteria. Working with an ion-trap mass spectrometer, scientists can locate the "fingerprints" of proteins. This fingerprint and the organism from which it was derived can then be identified through a protein database.
Richard Linton, a professor of food science, is director of the Center for Food Safety Engineering, which aims to protect the nation's food supply from biological and chemical contaminants, Purdue and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have teamed up to develop faster, more precise ways to detect possibly deadly substances. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 76 million cases of food-borne illness occur in the United States annually that claim approximately 5,000 lives and cost $7.7 billion or more. Although disease-causing bacteria accidentally can contaminate meat, fruit and vegetables at any stage, from the field through processing and storage, concern over food contamination has heightened since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Linton is a microbiologist.
Biology professor Richard Kuhn is leading an effort to study viruses thought to have potential as biological weapons. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded his team a pair of grants totaling approximately $18 million to help with two separate but complementary studies. The larger award, a $14.7 million NIH Program Project Grant spread over four and a half years, is aimed to support basic research on the fundamental biology of viruses. At the heart of such research is the study of the myriad proteins that form various parts of viruses; such proteins allow viral particles to infect and replicate within their cellular hosts. Such research generally requires the use of advanced microscopes, synchrotron radiation and computer technology to reveal the protein molecules' internal structures. The second grant, $3.2 million also spread over four and a half years, could complement the first grant in the long run, as it is designed to support the development of antiviral compounds that might be made possible by the researchers' work.
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Sources: Stephen Beaudoin, (765) 494-7944, firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Cain, (765) 494-8410, email@example.com
Alok Chaturvedi, (765) 494-9048, firstname.lastname@example.org
Qingyan "Yan" Chen, 765-496-7562, email@example.com
Graham Cooks, (765) 494-5263, firstname.lastname@example.org
Supriyo Datta, (765) 494-3511, email@example.com
Edward J. Delp, (765) 494-1740, firstname.lastname@example.org
Larry Glickman, (765) 494-6301, email@example.com
David Janes, (765) 494-9263, firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Ladisch, (765) 494-7022, email@example.com
Richard Linton, (765)494-6481, firstname.lastname@example.org
Scott McLuckey, (765) 494-5270, email@example.com
Ronald Reifenberger, (765) 494-3032, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gail Ruhl, (765) 494-4641, email@example.com
Ness Shroff, (765) 494-3471, firstname.lastname@example.org
Leon Thacker, (765) 494-7448, email@example.com
Lefteri Tsoukalas, (765) 494-5742, firstname.lastname@example.org
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