New homeland security research institute “profoundly important to Northeastern and our nation”

Northeastern held a formal opening ceremony on Thursday for the George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security at the University’s Burlington, Mass., campus. The secure, state-of-the-art research facility, funded by a $12 million investment from alumnus George J. Kostas, E’43, H’07, is critical to advancing Northeastern’s leadership in security research.

“The work of the Kostas Institute will be profoundly important to Northeastern and to our nation,” said Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University. “It will bring together our best minds to solve one of our greatest challenges, and will leave a legacy that the Kostas family and Northeastern can be proud of.”

Kostas and his wife, Lea, joined President Aoun for the ceremony Thursday morning. Kostas thanked Northeastern for, in his words, making his dream a reality, and praised the researchers whose security projects aim to keep the United States a free and protected nation.

“My wife and I believe America offers the best system for the development of human potential and the best incubator to contribute to the world,” Kostas said.

Throughout the day’s events, Northeastern leaders lauded Kostas as a visionary for his commitment to establishing the institute, which will present Northeastern with unprecedented opportunities to improve national security through translational, interdisciplinary research.

“You invested in us, you believed in us and our pledge is very simple: we are going to honor your confidence now and forever,” President Aoun told Kostas.

“Dr. George Kostas is a pioneer at the frontiers of science and engineering, and his patriotism for our nation and his unwavering commitment to his alma mater is making all of this possible,” said Sy Sternberg, chairman of Northeastern’s Board of Trustees.

The University also announced the appointment of the Kostas Institute’s codirectors, Peter Boynton and Dr. Stephen Flynn. Boynton, former commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, and Flynn, president of the Center for National Policy in Washington, D.C., will provide strong leadership to address critical homeland security challenges through use-inspired, interdisciplinary research undertaken at the institute.

Northeastern has a strong portfolio of research initiatives built around security. In 2008, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) selected Northeastern as one of 11 universities nationwide for a DHS Center of Excellence. The $10 million grant established the Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) center at Northeastern. Northeastern’s Marine Science Research Center in Nahant, Mass., is developing robotic technology to detect underwater mines and other coastal threats.

Designed in accordance with U.S. Department of Defense standards, the 70,000-square-foot Kostas Institute will give Northeastern the capacity and clearances to conduct secure research in a restricted environment in areas ranging from cyber security to explosives detection, mitigation and response to terror attacks.

The institute is equipped to test new security technologies in a controlled environment and evaluate its viability for addressing real-world security needs.

On Thursday afternoon, Northeastern researchers offered a preview of the innovative work set to begin at the institute, with presentations in areas such as explosives detection, cyber security, video tracking via unmanned drones and structural testing for resilient and sustainable systems.

“Our intention here is to create a different national model, a model that will allow us to capture the best of what goes on in basic research from faculty and students and translate it to critical problems in security here at this facility,” said Mel Bernstein, Northeastern’s senior vice provost for research.

“This is truly a new chapter in the history of Northeastern University, in which we’ll make great strides in security research, a critical domain in the 21st century and one that will engage our efforts across the University,” said David Luzzi, dean of the College of Engineering.

The University announced last week that Luzzi would serve as executive director of Northeastern’s Strategic Security Initiative. Luzzi, who is concluding his tenure as dean, will work closely with the codirectors of the Kostas Institute and with University leadership and faculty to further develop the University’s security initiatives.

Research at the institute will also incorporate a strong interdisciplinary element, given that national security solutions span numerous areas such as engineering, computer science, health sciences and the social sciences.

The codirectors will be instrumental in leading the institute to serve as a resource for industry and for government at the federal, state and local levels. The research activities undertaken at the facility will be supported through externally funded projects involving private-public multidisciplinary research teams working on homeland security-related challenges.

Peter Boynton was most recently commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. He brings experience across all levels of government and major functional areas of homeland security. He has held leadership positions in port security as a Coast Guard Captain of the Port and in aviation security as a TSA federal security director. He also brings national experience as a former director on the White House National Security Council staff and at the U.S. Department of State.

Dr. Stephen Flynn comes to Northeastern University from the Center for National Policy in Washington, DC where he has been President after spending a decade as a Senior Fellow for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. The author of several of the leading books and articles on homeland security, he is a frequent expert witness before U.S. Congress, and one of the nation’s foremost authorities on and proponents of resilience as a security and societal imperative. He has served in the White House as a part of the National Security Council staff and was a part of the Obama Presidential Transition Team.