Cultivating a talented and diverse R&D workforce of the future – Homeland Security Today
Creating a diverse and highly skilled technical workforce for the Homeland Security Enterprise and beyond is a top priority for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T). Tapping into the best and brightest minds in academia, and more specifically focusing on the unique value offered by students and faculty at Minority Service Institutions (MSIs), will propel science and technology into the workforce. work of the future. Students from diverse backgrounds bring talent, insight and understanding to the complex challenges of homeland security; by engaging them early in their university studies and opening the doors to hands-on research and internships, the seeds for a lifetime of solving the country’s toughest problems using science and technology.
“The work we do here at S&T can only benefit from including a variety of perspectives and ideas and looking at issues from all angles. We live in a country with people from different backgrounds from all over the world – the diversity of our country is one of its defining strengths. We want to harness all the wealth of talents, skills and insight that our company has to offer, ”said Rebecca Medina, Director of the Office of Academic Programs. “The experience and background that each person brings to the job fosters innovative solutions to some of our country’s most important and difficult problems. It also helps improve decision making by offering a wider range of perspectives. Having a diverse workforce will allow us to have better debates that will lead to better strategies and better results.
Through workforce development initiatives such as MSI Program, S&T creates a group of students and faculty from different backgrounds who are well qualified, eager and ready to begin a career in homeland security science and engineering. The MSI program, through its initiatives closely aligned with DHS Centers of excellence (COEs), provides the largest homeland security community – universities (including Asian and Native American Pacific Island service institutions, historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic service institutions and tribal colleges and universities), federal government agencies, non-governmental organizations, industry, and more – with access to some of the country’s best and brightest minds and the vision they bring with them. For MSI participants, they gain invaluable experience by contributing in real time to the scientific and technological efforts of DHS.
An initiative of the MSI program, the Summer Research Team Program (SRT), engages early career faculty, undergraduates, and graduate students in research related to the key mission and research needs of DHS. The SRTs consist of an early career educational advisor and one or two students who commit to 10 weeks of study with one of the active COEs. This year Participants in the SRT program will start working on their research projects in early June. Research projects span everything from risk and economic analysis to food and agricultural security, preparedness and resilience, terrorism and violent extremism, maritime security and compliance with maritime law, and information analysis and visualization.
In the summer of 2020, an SRT team developed a low-cost portable sulfur emission detection device for U.S. Coast Guard marine inspectors. The team conducted research in collaboration with the Maritime security center COE, led by the Stevens Institute of Technology. They used nanotechnology applications to develop a prototype wearable sensor platform that can be used to effectively monitor compliance and enforce the International Maritime Organization’s global cap on sulfur emissions from ships. The prototype of the team’s portable sulfur emission detection device was recommended for invention disclosure and potential patent by the Technology Commercialization Office at the Stevens Institute of Technology.
Another SRT team used advanced analytical tools to develop a prediction model to help optimize passenger flow at crowded airports; The team found that by effectively placing security guards, passenger throughput could be improved during peak hours. This research, conducted at the Center for accelerated operational efficiency (CAOE) COE at Arizona State University, tapped into historical and current data to develop predictive peaks and troughs schedules at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Through data mining and analysis, the team succeeded in creating a process to determine the load capacity of aircraft. This information feeds into the Passenger Arrivals Estimator (PAE), which provides an overview of the total number of passengers at the airport at any given time. The PAE estimates fit into a Dynamic Queue Analyzer (DQA), which optimizes the deployment of transport security officers on operational lanes to increase throughput. Together, the PAE and DQA serve as input data for the planning system of these agents.
A third team worked with CAOE on a project focused on emergency response and recovery. The project explored Puerto Rico’s experience with Hurricane María to determine how to solve the complex problem of better decision-making during crises. The goal of this team was to develop a decision support tool, a model based on the inventory theory of individual decision making, which could help individuals make important decisions to save lives during hurricanes. Last summer, the team developed a prototype of the tool – a mobile app coded in Microsoft Power Apps – with the ability to work online and offline during disasters.
“The SRT program gives students hands-on research experience that they won’t get in a lab. When we talk to students who have participated in the program, we often hear that the experience has been stimulating but fun and that they have benefited from hands-on experience. And they often recommend the summer program to other students who wish to pursue graduate research and postgraduate careers in homeland security, ”said Gregory Simmons, MSI / Workforce Program Director, Office of University Programs.
the Scientific Leadership Award Program (SLA), is another important component of the MSI program, which focuses on the development of long-term research and education programs that are driven by emerging homeland security needs. For nearly a decade and a half, ALS has supported MSI education initiatives, developed curricula, and provided scholarships and funding. In March 2021, grants have been awarded to five institutions serving minorities – Texas A&M University Kingsville, University of the District of Columbia, Jackson State University, Tennessee State University and University of Texas Rio Grande Valley – to develop homeland security course content and engage creatively students and faculty in research relevant to the complex challenges facing DHS and the homeland security enterprise.
In short, SLA and SRT help S&T build a future workforce driven by science and innovation. Providing students and faculty with access to real hands-on experience, exposing them to key players in homeland security science and engineering, and developing sustainable research and education programs within MSI institutions are all essential to mobilize our country’s vast and diverse talent pool. . The early involvement of this group ensures that the workforce of the future will benefit from the valuable talent and insight that MSI communities have to offer.
“When we seek out the talents offered by MSI communities and celebrate what is both common and different, we become a better department ready to tackle the country’s toughest issues,” said Medina.
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