Research & Innovation

Stevens Summer Research Institute Engages Students in Pioneering Maritime Security Research

The 2013 Summer Research Institute (SRI) is underway at Stevens, with 13 students from four universities conducting cutting-edge and immediately relevant research to address the real-world challenge of securing our nation’s ports and waterways.

The SRI – which is run by the Stevens-led Center for Secure and Resilient Maritime Commerce (CSR), a Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence in Maritime and Port Security – is an intensive, highly-collaborative summer program focused on addressing complex maritime security issues. During the program, students gain access to Stevens’ nationally-renowned maritime security research centers, faculty and technologies and conduct hands-on, multi-disciplinary research. They also engage with the external maritime community through seminars by maritime industry experts and field visits to ports, labs and government facilities.

“Field visits to port environments and locations where maritime and homeland security practitioners conduct their day-to-day operations is a key feature of the Summer Research Institute,” said CSR Director of Education Beth Austin DeFares. “CSR actively leverages its partnerships in industry and government, to give SRI student’s unique opportunities to go behind the scenes and learn directly from practitioners in the field.”

This summer, students with backgrounds in engineering, science and technology management are studying detection technology synergies, Customs and Border Protection (CPB) trade facilitation, and high-frequency radar data integration for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Randy Soto and Oscar Gonzalez Davila of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM) have focused their research on using high-frequency radar (HF radar) technologies to support various Coast Guard activities, such as waterway monitoring, pollution detection, and search and rescue. They are building an advanced algorithm to potentially integrate into the Coast Guard’s Watchkeeper System. The algorithm, using data from HF radar signals calculates the speed of waves and direction of currents, and also detects small boats and vessels that aren’t reporting on Automatic Identification Systems (AIS). (The Coast Guard requires boats of a certain size to to report on AIS). Since the Coast Guard may be unable to detect vessels without AIS, the integration of HF radar data into Watchkeeper could be an important security asset.

Six students are investigating new efforts by CBP to streamline trade in U.S. ports. Importing and exporting goods to and from the U.S. is an incredibly complex, time consuming, and at times inefficient process, involving loads of paperwork and documentation and extensive security measures. CBP's Centers of Excellence and Expertise (CEE) are designed to transform the trade process for trusted trade partners by leveraging new technologies and improving coordination with other federal agencies in the trade process, e.g. the FDA and DEA. Robert Anderson, Carrick Porter, Farhana Begum, Blama Kollie and Nicholas Monzillo of Stevens, and Omar Bass of Essex County College, are examining the effectiveness of the CEEs, including benefits and drawbacks to various stakeholder populations.

Finally, Jonathan Alarcon and Kate Moyer of Stevens, Kevin Abreu Castellanos of UPRM and Kristen Stilson of Elizabeth City State University are examining how various detection technologies for small boats can be used together to maximize maritime domain awareness. Working with signals from Stevens’ passive acoustic hydrophone-based detection system, SPADES, and images from high-definition, infrared, video and hand-held cameras, the team is collecting data on vessels that pass the Stevens campus on the Hudson River. By understanding how different boats create different signals in different technologies and in differing weather conditions conditions, their goal is to build a comprehensive database to efficiently characterize and identify vessels.

“The students have rapidly demonstrated a deep interest and aptitude in utilizing these technologies, and in analyzing complex acoustic data to supplement the other systems” said Dr. Barry Bunin, SRI faculty advisor.  “They will clearly demonstrate the role that these technologies can play in port security, and in particular, how they can benefit the USCG.”

In addition to working on their individual research projects, this year’s SRI participants have engaged in a number of unique activities, including a visit to the National Urban Security Laboratory (NUSTL) for a demonstration of radiological detection technologies and other first responder tools; a talk on countering nuclear and radiological terrorism by Charles Ferguson, President of the Federation of American Scientists; and a situational assessment and economic recovery post-attack exercise hosted by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.

Learn more about the SRI at

Photo caption: CBP Supervisory Officers John Dietze and Scott Rutledge discuss health and safety hazards and intellectual property right issues of counterfeit goods with SRI students at CBP Port NY/Newark facilities.