Department of Homeland Security Scholars Program

Analysis and Training for Defense of Biological and Digital Threats

Lead Institution: University of Texas at San Antonio
PI: Bernard Arulanandam, Ph.D.

Sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security

Biological and digital threats are distinct and significant concerns for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the broader homeland security enterprise. Biological threats include bacterial and viral pathogens classified under categories A, B and C. They can cause widespread and global diseases either through natural exposures or deliberate release of engineered, trojanized or weaponized specimens in bioterroristic attacks. If undetected, infection with these agents can have devastating consequences for public health and national stability. To prevent the spread of disease, defensive countermeasures require coordinated, timely and informed regional, national and global responses. Funded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – 2014 Scientific Leadership Award (SLA), this program seeks to advance the quantitative assessment of these threats through advanced research and strategic workforce development.

With respect to student education and faculty development, this program will:

  • Attract, recruit, and educate high performing undergraduate students interested in genomic epidemiology, biosurveillance, cyber security, and/or digital forensics.
  • Provide formal, paid internships with key organizations that serve as centers of gravity in the areas of biological and cyber security defense.
  • Establish an annual pipeline of 6-9 well qualified, well-educated, financially supported students each year to serve and contribute to the homeland security enterprise.
  • Actively and formally involve undergraduate “DHS Scholars” at UTSA in research projects supported by the grant.
  • Establish and/or leverage existing collaborative relationships for research, education, and student internships between UTSA and DHS Centers of Excellence. (1) The National Center for Food Protection and Defense (NCFPD), and (2) The Command, Control, and Interoperability Center for Advanced Data Analysis (CCICADA).

With respect to research, this program specifically will:

  • Develop a common threat metric assessment system for biological and digital threats, which provides a common scale along common dimensions pertaining to both threats.
  • Develop a quantitative measurement process specific to malware and botnet threats that feeds into the common threat metric assessment system.
  • Develop a quantitative measurement process specific to biological threats that feeds into the common threat metric assessment system.
  • Improve cloud based informatics capabilities that are needed to support both biological and digital threat assessment activities.
  • Design adaptive software architecture of the threat surveillance system that allows addition, deletion, and replacement of volatile modules at runtime.

The DHS Scientific Leadership Award Program helps develop enduring homeland security science and engineering research and education programs at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) by supporting the development of homeland security science and engineering teaching initiatives, curriculum development and scholarships. These awards support the development of enduring educational and research capabilities within the MSI communities, which include Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions and Tribal Colleges and Universities. Each Scientific Leadership Award recipient is required to partner with a DHS Center of Excellence.

SOURCE: http://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/minority-serving-institutions-program

** DHS Cohort #3 is scheduled to start Fall 2018 with the program application process anticipated to open in early Spring 2018. **

DHS Funded Scholars Cohort #2 | 2017-2018
Matthew Benavides
Gabriella Johnson
Cameron Covey
Jack Segura
Irvin Sandoval
Kaitlyn Wehrheim
Justin Ralph Baldovino Guerra

DHS Funded Scholars Cohort #1 | 2016-2017
Sarah Connelly, Major: Biochemistry, Dept: Chemistry
Kamren Hollingsworth, Major: Microbiology and Immunology, Dept: Biology
Benjamin Sandoval, Major: Computer Science, Dept: Computer Science
Richard Avelar, Major: Computer Software Engineering, Dept: Computer Science
Bridgette Findley, Major: Computer Science, Dept: Computer Science
Angela Evans, Major: Information Systems, Dept: Information Systems and Cyber Security
Briana McFadden, Major: Business and Information Systems, Dept: Information Systems and Cyber Security
Sohail Moiz, Major: Information Systems and Cyber Security, Dept: Information Systems and Cyber Security

DHS Faculty Mentors
Dr. Rajendra Boppana, Professor, Dept: Computer Sciences
Dr. Nicole Beebe, Associate Professor, Dept: Information Systems and Cyber Security
Dr. Mark Eppinger, Assistant Professor, Dept: Biology

DHS Early Career Awardees
Dr. Xiaoyin Wang, Assistant Professor, Dept: Computer Sciences
Dr. Palden Lama, Assistant Professor, Dept: Computer Sciences
Dr. Rohit Valecha, Assistant Professor, Dept: Information Systems and Cyber Security

For additional information, please contact Ana Laredo at 210-458-8528.