Granger Morgan, head of EPP, said the grant will support a wide range of research projects on issues related to security and engineered civil systems, including improved communication among emergency responders, decontamination after a dirty bomb or chemical attack, vulnerability of computer, electric power and water systems, and how to involve the public in key decision making.
"Much as we might like to do it, preventing all attacks everywhere is just not possible," said Morgan. "What we can do is dramatically reduce our vulnerabilities and look for ways that we can achieve other important social goals, such as improved public health." Morgan also said that identifying and improving the balance among legitimate conflicting public interests will be an important objective of the work.
In Ph.D. research recently completed and supported by the MacArthur Foundation, Matt Dombroski, who now works for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, did careful modeling of the implications of a dirty bomb attack in downtown Pittsburgh. Building on his technical analysis, Dombroski studied the implications of alternative communication about evacuation or sheltering in place for different attack scenarios, according to Morgan.
Other recent security work conducted by EPP faculty and students has included analysis of how best to detect and limit the impacts of biological attacks, how to make the electric power system more secure, and how to limit the loss of privacy and anonymity in a world with wide-spread computer monitoring and massive data bases.