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Northeastern secures $20 million agreement with US Army to conduct critical defense research

Northeastern University has signed a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory to conduct critical defense research, specifically in designing and developing advanced engineered materials. This materials research has a range of national defense applications, from next-generation armor to high-velocity sprayed materials used to repair military equipment and vehicles.

The breakthrough agreement provides a unique mechanism for Northeastern to obtain expedited funding from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory to conduct research vital to national security and resilience. Under this agreement, the Army will provide up to $20.4 million over the next three years for Northeastern-led research projects.

“A world that is resilient and secure is a world that is powered by innovative research,” said Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University. “Northeastern’s research enterprise is leading the way with a multi-year strategy that combines the ingenuity of our scientists with the funding support to sustain it. The generous investment from our alumnus, George Kostas, is a clear example of the mutually reinforcing ecosystem of academia, philanthropy, and government funding.”

The collaborative agreement dovetails with Northeastern’s commitment to solving global challenges in security—one of the university’s three programmatic pillars.

“This agreement signals the Army’s recognition of Northeastern’s leadership in developing new strategic materials for use in defense applications,” said David Luzzi, executive director of Northeastern’s Security Research Initiative who also played a key role in forging the agreement. “We see the Army agreement as the first in a set of strategic cooperative agreements with agencies responsible for research on security, intelligence and resilience. Two crucial factors laid the groundwork for this to happen: President Aoun’s vision to prioritize Northeastern’s security research profile, and the university building the George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security.”

The 70,000-square-foot Kostas Research Institute, located in Burlington, Massachusetts, was designed in accordance with Department of Defense standards. The institute features specially equipped facilities for conducting security research in areas ranging from cybersecurity to explosives detection, to advance resilience in the face of 21st-century threats. The institute was also designed to enable unique partnerships between academia, industry, and government; it is home to the Rogers Innovation Center and NanoOPS, a nanoscale printing system with the potential to transform nanomanufacturing and spur innovation in areas such as flexible electronics, medicine, and energy storage.

A world that is resilient and secure is a world that is powered by innovative research.
— President Joseph E. Aoun

The George J. Kostas Research Institute of Homeland Security, located in Burlington, Massachusetts. Northeastern University photo

The George J. Kostas Research Institute of Homeland Security, located in Burlington, Massachusetts. Northeastern University photo

Research projects to get underway

The collaborative agreement will kick off with two research projects:

•    A group of eight Northeastern faculty members led by professor Sinan Muftu and associate professor Andrew Gouldstone, both in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, will be studying the science and engineering behind high-velocity spraying materials that weld strongly to surfaces and can lend critical improvements and repairs that extend the lifespan of military infrastructure. Luzzi explained that this “cold spray” technology—an additive manufacturing process that adds metal powders to a surface at high velocity—has, for example, proved critical in refurbishing the Air Force’s B-1 bombers by fixing panel parts that are no longer manufactured. Another successful application of these materials, he said, is repairing submarine periscopes. Understanding the complex fundamentals underlying this manufacturing process will enable its safe application to a wide range of materials found in today’s, and tomorrow’s, military systems. Ultimately, these technologies will help revolutionize commercial manufacturing.

•    Vincent Harris, University Distinguished Professor and the William Lincoln Smith Chair in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Northeastern, will lead a project in collaboration with the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground facility in Maryland. Harris’ expertise is in the design and processing of advanced magnetic materials, and the project involves using magnetic particles to align nanoparticle ceramic materials that can be used to develop next-generation, lightweight bulletproof vests and vehicle armor.

A longstanding commitment to homeland security and the military

Northeastern’s strong portfolio of security research initiatives involves faculty across multiple disciplines approaching security issues from a range of perspectives, which include developing new strategic materials for use in defense applications; preventing cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, websites, and battlefield units; and developing sensing and imaging technology to identify and foil terrorist threats.

Northeastern has more than 90 ongoing research projects funded by the Department of Defense. What’s more, the university is centrally involved in two Department of Homeland Security-funded Centers of Excellence—the ALERT Center on the detection of explosives, led by Michael Silevitch, Robert D. Black Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and the CIRC Center on the security and resilience of critical infrastructure led by Stephen Flynn, co-director of the Kostas Research Institute, founding director of the Center for Resilience Studies, and professor of political science.

In addition to research, Northeastern’s commitment to homeland security and the military extends to its academic programs and its longstanding pledge to supporting service members.

Earlier this year Northeastern signed a first-of-its-kind agreement with the National Guard, enabling guardsmen to earn an accelerated master’s degree in homeland security. The program, which offers both online and classroom learning, aims to prepare the next generation of emergency managers and homeland security professionals for leadership roles in the public and private sectors.

The federal government’s Yellow Ribbon program, which operates in conjunction with the Department of Veterans Affairs, currently provides scholarships to more than 450 Northeastern student veterans who have served in the post-9/11 era. The university offers student veterans myriad other on-campus resources, as well.