Campus & Community

The CSR Summer Research Institute 2011

After an extremely successful inaugural program last summer, it was no doubt that this year’s Summer Research Institute (SRI), sponsored by the Center for Secure and Resilient Maritime Commerce (CSR) at Stevens, participants had big shoes to fill. It’s also clear the students at SRI 2011 were not worried:

“We should probably start off by telling you about Magello,” laughed Christopher (Chris) Filosa, a rising senior studying Marine Sciences at Rutgers University, when asked what experience stood out the most for him from this summer.

This assertion was met with nods and smiles from seven of the twenty-one students representing eight universities, including Stevens Institute of Technology, Jackson State University, Norfolk State University, Rutgers University, State University of NY - Binghamton, University of Hawaii, University of Miami, and the University of Puerto Rico who participated in the CSR’s second annual eight-week intensive summer research program.  The maritime security focused program is led by a team of CSR researchers and educators and ran this year from June 6 to July 29.

“We didn’t want to just research something and pass that information on to the next group, we wanted a product,” said Andrew (Drew) Orvieto, a graduate student in Product Architecture at Stevens. “That’s how Magello was born. Local residents to the Department of Homeland Security can use this. We took publicly available information from a bunch of different places and rolled it into one, easy-to-use platform.”

“Magello is a website that we created to show and monitor all types of maritime and environmental effects,” explained Greg Sciarretta, a rising junior at SUNY Binghamton studying computer engineering. “We’re spreading the word about the site, inviting potential partners to our final presentations.”

“The head of Port Authority knows about this and she’s excited,” continued Chris. “The Coast Guard even has interest in this. We met with someone who models for the Navy who loved it. If we had more time and resources, there is so much more we could do.”

“We hope to continue developing this, with an agency perhaps, that will adopt it as a pet project,” said Drew.

The enthusiasm was palpable – and it didn’t stop with just the Magello team. The overall consensus of the group was that what they were doing and learning through the SRI was not going to stop at the conclusion of the program.

Daniel (Dan) Reynolds, who will be a junior in the fall and studies industrial engineering at the University of Miami, has been focused on the detection and prevention of events. More interested in the design and production side, he said he’s found the divide between research and application to be eye-opening.

“The amount of knowledge I’ve gained here has been phenomenal,” Dan stated. “I want to continue the process of tying technologies together – bridging the gap between research and production. It would be great to create a comprehensive system; there is a tremendous opportunity to fuse all the silos together.”

A student from the University of Puerto Rico, Enrique Questell is a rising junior studying civil engineering. Through the SRI, he learned of the high-frequency radar partnership between Rutgers and UPR, and how much more advanced the technology is at Rutgers.

“I want to go back to Puerto Rico with the base of knowledge I’ve gained here and help my professors enhance what we have,” Enrique asserted. “I’ve already spoken with a professor in this field at UPR and I hope to work with him next semester on this project.”

“I’m studying civil engineering and am interested in transportation, and my advisor thought I should get involved with maritime,” stated Fatima Diop, who will be a senior at Jackson State University. “I wasn’t sure at first, but now as the program draws to a close, I’m considering maritime for graduate school. The SRI has been a great experience and I’m looking forward to utilizing what I’ve learned here in my career.”

The students participating in this year’s program were organized into two research teams, the Sensor Technologies team and the Consequence Assessment team.  Each team was given the collective challenge of utilizing sensor technologies and plume modeling forecasts to assess the potential impacts of a radiological dispersion and oil spill in the New York Harbor.  

This fictitious scenario suddenly became real on July 20, when there was a sewage spill in the Hudson River. The teams were able to use what they’d learned to actively assist in a report produced by experts from Stevens, utilized by the NYC DEP.

“During the ‘fake’ scenario, we learned that we weren’t entirely prepared. We didn’t ask ourselves what the potential implications were and what could ultimately happen,” explained Chris. “We created a checklist for the next time… not having any idea that this real-time scenario would actually happen!”
The SRI also provided students the unique opportunity to collaborate with CSR researchers and with each other to conduct hands-on research in the field and in the University’s Maritime Security Laboratory. Students also engaged in highly-relevant lectures by homeland security experts and maritime industry representatives.  This summer’s guest speakers included Dana Goward, Director Marine Transportation Systems Management, USCG, Nick Pera, US Navy Chief Systems Engineer, Richard Larrabee (Ret. ADM), Director of Port Commerce, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), and Jeanne Lin, Deputy Director, Borders and Maritime Security Division at DHS S&T.

“The connections we’ve made through the SRI are the biggest take away for me,” said Dan. “Beth (DeFares, Director of Education for the CSR) put me in contact with someone at the Coast Guard so I could ensure my work would be relevant for them. I hope to stay in touch with everyone I’ve met here – the students, faculty and professionals. This field is such a small world; our paths will definitely continue to cross.”

“I didn’t necessarily expect this when I came here,” stated Enrique. “Meeting people from such diverse fields has been great. And it’s not just the networking, it’s also the friendships; now we each have friends in different fields and different places. Wherever I go, I have someone I’m going to call – to help solve problems and just hang out.”

Greg echoed the sentiment: “I’d love to work with everyone again. The faculty and guests have been great; everyone has been so open and there was always someone who we could turn to for guidance.”

“We felt comfortable from day one,” agreed Chris. “It was such a supportive, inclusive environment. And the best part? All these elements came together seamlessly which allowed us to implement things for real people, in the real world, in real time.”