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DHS Summer Research Team Program for Minority-Serving Institutions Proves Impactful; Applications Being Accepted

March 1, 2006

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—With 15 summer research team positions available, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is currently accepting applications for its DHS Summer Research Team Program for Minority-Serving Institutions. In its first year, the program enrolled 10 teams—10 faculty members and 17 students (27 total participants from eight Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and two Hispanic Serving Institutions (HBI)—at four DHS Centers across the United States.

The appointments apply to faculty and student research teams—one faculty member and up to two students—from Tribal Colleges and Universities, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Universities, as well as HBCU and HBI, who work at a specified DHS Center, which brings together the nation’s top experts and focuses its most talented researchers on a variety of threats that include agricultural, chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological, explosive and cyber terrorism as well as the behavioral aspects of terrorism.

The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) administers the program, which allows qualified faculty members and students from science, technology and engineering or mathematics disciplines to work on collaborative research for 12 weeks during the summer.

"We hope to involve faculty early in their career or to work with faculty members who might have limited experience in DHS Science and Technology research," said Wayne Stevenson, ORISE program director. "The DHS program will provide them with opportunities to participate in homeland security research, which also contributes to, aligns with and supports the missions and goals of DHS."

One such team included Lloyd Mitchell, Ph.D., a 2005 summer participant in the Recovery and Disposal on Indian Reservations of Contaminated Tangibles (ReDIReCT) project. From his Elizabeth City, North Carolina, home, Mitchell traveled across the country to the DHS Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, where he worked with one of his students to determine the risk and economic impact of bio-terror events at Native American casinos.

"This experience has given me the opportunity to develop a solid base from which to expand the ReDIReCT project, hopefully to non-Indian mega-casinos where the program will have the greatest impact," Mitchell said.

National Hispanic University (NHU) biology professor, Cecilia Serrano, wanted to establish a program at her university in San Jose, California, that would offer hands-on research opportunities to her students.

Serrano, along with two of her students, received an appointment to spend 12 weeks in the summer of 2005 at the University of Minnesota’s DHS Center on Food Protection and Defense where they studied two of Serrano’s favorite research interests: marine biology and environmental toxins such as an anthrax-like bacterium, Bacillus cereus, which can cause illness in humans when meat (i.e., salmon) containing the bacteria is eaten. Serrano and DHS fear that this bacterium could be used to deliberately contaminate our nation’s food supply, and they are seeking ways to control the harmful effects of these bacteria in humans.

Serrano is now better prepared to pioneer genomic studies at her school using the leading-edge tools and techniques learned during the internship, as well as her new network of scientists. To do this, she is coordinating a three-way partnership between NHU, nearby Stanford University and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota.

"It is realistic to think that all of our science majors can have meaningful research experiences throughout their undergraduate training," Serrano said. "For students, most of whom are the first in their family to attend college…, this is a very significant educational approach to be taking. It has the potential to dramatically transform lives."

Successful applicants will participate full-time and serve their appointments at one of the following DHS Centers: The Center on Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, The National Center for Food Protection and Defense, The National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense, The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, The Center for Advancing Microbial Research Assessment, and The Center for the Study of High Consequence Event Preparedness and Response.

Applications for the DHS program are now being accepted until March 27, 2006. To download application information, visit For additional information about the DHS Centers, please refer to For more information about accredited U.S. postsecondary institutions that meet the criteria for identification as a minority institution, visit

The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) is a U.S. Department of Energy institution focusing on scientific initiatives to research health risks from occupational hazards, assess environmental cleanup, respond to radiation medical emergencies, support national security and emergency preparedness, and educate the next generation of scientists. ORISE is managed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

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