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CIRI support leads to project funding for minority serving institutions

3/31/2021 3:18:52 PM Lizzie Roehrs

The Department of Homeland Security Scientific Leadership Award (SLA) is one of several programs sponsored and managed by the Science and Technology (S&T) Office of University Programs (OUP). This program aims to aid minority serving institutions in research that directly supports homeland security mission areas. The goal of this support is to increase the pool of culturally, geographically, and ethnically diverse job applicants who possesses skills highly sought after by DHS, its various components, and the broader homeland security enterprise.

Under the SLA program, DHS connects the MSI faculty member and research team with a DHS S&T OUP Center of Excellence with expertise and active research in the domain of interest to the MSI team.  

The Scientific Leadership Award was given by DHS to only five institutions this year.  Two of the five awardees– Tennessee State University and the University of the District of Columbia – are being supported by CIRI. Recipients work with a Center of Excellence of their choosing, so having two of the five recipients choose to work with CIRI specifically is exciting for both teams.

One recipient of this award is Professor Angelyn Spaulding Flowers of the University of the District of Columbia for a project aiming to develop a prototype simulation tool that incorporates demographic, socioeconomic, and health characteristics to model human behaviors in emergencies at the community/neighborhood level. 

According to Spaulding Flowers, the SLA helps by providing student funding to support data collection and development of the database structure of their prototype. It also helps with the expansion of their research scholarship supporting the emergency services sector.

“Support from CIRI helps both faculty and student researchers through collaborative endeavors which push the boundaries of research scholarship in the emergency services sector area,” says Spaulding Flowers. “This will occur through interactions with CIRI faculty engaged in emergency response projects, and through UDC student participation in CIRI summer internships and research opportunities.”

Led by Co-PIs Dr. Andrea Gardner and Dr. Deo Chimba, Tennessee State University was awarded an SLA project titled “Transportation Resilient Under Catastrophic Events (TRUCE)”.  Their objective is to use traffic simulation that integrates risk management theories and techniques with roadway design and planning and traffic flows to facilitate better planning and operation of transportation systems in support of evacuation scenarios during disasters.

Institutions receiving this award have the opportunity to engage in research projects addressing Homeland Security gaps identified by S&T while also providing a pathway towards student internships that can provide participants with relevant experiences to support DHS and Homeland Security at large. CIRI Executive Director, Randy Sandone says that supporting these institutions follows the missions of both DHS and the University of Illinois by promoting outreach, learning, discovery, and engagement.

“CIRI is truly excited to be able to support two very worthy SLAs this year,” says Sandone. “Our researchers and staff benefit greatly through these collaborations and we appreciate the research expertise and the insights and perspectives that the MSI teams contribute to the projects.  Both of these projects will deliver new knowledge and impactful outputs in service of our critical infrastructure resilience mission.”