Boise State receives grant to research biological hazards

Boise State University has received a $300,000 grant from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency in conjunction with the National Science Foundation through the NSF’s Algorithms for Threat Detection Agency to research chemical and biological hazards.

The research by Boise State University faculty members Inanc Senocak and Jodi Mead relates to reconstructing and simulating hazards once they have been detected in the atmosphere. The end goal is to understand how to reduce and control the threat of contamination that could occur to civilians in urban areas and troops in the battlefield, Arbiter Online reports.

Senocak, who is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, worked on a postdoctoral fellowship at Los Alamos National Laboratory previous to Boise State. In that position, he used statistical algorithms and simplified models of air pollution to reconstruct how contaminants would disperse in the atmosphere.

“It’s essentially situational awareness,” Senocak said, according to Arbiter Online. “But to produce refined projections of a contaminant dispersion event, a high level of computational capability is needed to move from simple modeling to complex mathematical modeling.”

Mead, a professor of mathematics, used her expertise in numerical analysis to provide Senocak’s research with new algorithms to improve accuracy.

“When a sensor detects a threat in the air, you want to know what it is, where it’s coming from, where it’s going to go and how fast it’s going to happen,” Mead said, according to Arbiter Online. “And you want to be able to do that without losing public confidence or expending unnecessary resources. As the level of fidelity in the physical model increases, the uncertainty decreases.”

Mead and Senocak hope to improve the accuracy of their model as the margin of error could affect human lives.

“Our collaboration in mathematics and engineering is a unique strength in addressing a viable threat on the horizon,” Mead said, Arbiter Online reports.