CREATE Universities Partner with Two New Homeland Security Centers

CREATE universities, USC and the University of Wisconsin, will partner with two new national Department of Homeland Security (DHS) centers of excellence at Texas A&M University and University of Minnesota.

USC’s center, called the Homeland Security Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE), was the first such program funded by the DHS and is led by Randolph W. Hall of USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering and Detlof von Winterfeldt of the USC School of Policy, Planning and Development.

The two new centers will address homeland security issues in two key agricultural sectors – foreign animal disease and food security.

Texas A&M University’s new National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense will receive $18 million in funding over three years from the DHS. Najmedin Meshkati of USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering and Robert M. MacGregor of the School’s Information Systems Institute, both researchers involved in CREATE, will spearhead USC’s participation in the project.

Meshkati, an associate professor in the School’s department of civil/environmental engineering, is widely known expert on risk management of complex, large-scale technological systems, with particular reference to human factors, and has consulted for many national and international organizations. MacGregor, a senior project leader at the School’s Information Sciences Institute, is a computer scientist who works in the field of knowledge access and representation, creating systems that can produce the right facts from complex databases. Dr. MacGregor is also developing simulation models for CREATE.

The University of Minnesota has been awarded $15 million over three years to establish the National Center for Post-Harvest Food Protection and Defense and will be working with CREATE’s current partner, the University of Wisconsin. Lawrence Casper, Assistant Dean of Research and Technology Transfer was instrumental in spearheading the effort for the University of Wisconsin. Engineering faculty members, David Beebe and Nicholas Abbott, will work with faculty in Food Toxicology and Microbiology and the Food Research Institute on new sensor technologies for toxins in food.

CREATE already works closely with the University of Wisconsin. Vicki Bier, professor at the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Industrial Engineering, is a lead researcher for USC’s Center in the field of Risk Analysis.

Tom Ridge of the Department of Homeland Security noted in his annoucement that “both Texas A&M and the University of Minnesota will be working closely with the Center of Excellence at the University of Southern California. USC opened the first Homeland Security Center of Excellence last month to address risk and economic analysis associated with acts of terror."

“We are delighted to again be called to serve the nation’s national security needs with our expertise," said the dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering C.L. Max Nikias.