THE MAGAZINE

One Lab’s Mission: Resilience Research

By Lilly Chapa

About 15 miles north of Boston, at one corner of Northeastern University’s satellite campus, there is a three-floor, 70,000- square-foot lab space where researchers from the public and private sectors collaborate with academia to improve homeland security. Called the George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security, it was established in September 2011 with a $12 million endowment from its namesake, a graduate of the university, who wanted to facilitate research into solutions that could make U.S. critical infrastructure more resilient.

The facility includes collaborative meeting spaces, a reinforced structural testing laboratory, and secure areas that meet Department of Defense security clearance standards. Private companies can also rent out lab space in the building.

Northeastern University faculty, researchers, and students—from first-year undergraduates to Ph.D. candidates—can access portions of the building to attend classes, contribute to projects, or conduct research. Industry security organizations can apply to rent out lab space in the building.

The institute also hosts meetings of government entities, such as the U.S. Coast Guard or state emergency management agencies. This helps increase the mutually beneficial bond between researchers and practitioners, says Peter Boynton, who codirects the Institute along with Stephen Flynn.

At the institute, “Security is…broadly defined as engaging civil society along with traditional security measures. Our definition of security includes energy security, economic security, and structural security—all within the realm of resilience,” says Boynton.

For example, the Structural Testing of Resilient Sustainable Systems Lab, or STReSS Lab, is a 4,000-square-foot research facility. A four-foot-thick, reinforced concrete floor is equipped with 416 tie-down anchors that can each withstand 200,000 pounds of force. The space is used to construct full-scale buildings and bridges and push them to failure, says Jerome Hajjar, Ph.D., director of the STReSS lab.

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