President Atkinson's Message about 9/11 - Sep. 3
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Friday, September 6, 2002
Contact: Chuck McFadden
(510) 987-9193

UC, National Laboratories in Forefront of Post-9/11 Research

The University of California, the national laboratories it manages for the federal government and UC’s sister academic research institutions across the nation have become even more important national resources in the year since Sept. 11.

UC has a long history of working on research now connected with the anti-terrorism effort, including a decades-long partnership with the federal government to carry out basic and applied research across many scientific disciplines.

As longtime repositories of expertise on national security issues, the university and the laboratories have provided information and advice to local, state and national governments on such disparate subjects as the advisability of creating a Department of Homeland Security, “dirty bombs” and bioterrorism. Experts from the university and the national laboratories have testified more than a dozen times before Congressional committees in addition to participation in briefings for members of the Executive Branch. For example:

  • On July 10, Michael Anastasio, Director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Don Cobb, Associate Director at Los Alamos National Laboratory, testified before the Senate Energy Committee regarding the development of a new Homeland Security Department and the role of the national laboratories.
  • Systemwide Vice President Michael Drake, M.D., testified on “Germs, Toxins and Terror: the New Threat to America” before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • Dr. Abolhassan Astaneh-Asi from UC Berkeley testified before the House Science Committee on structural issues in associated with the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings.
  • In April, UC Santa Cruz Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood discussed the role of the research university in the post 9/11 environment as she gave the Carey Lecture at the annual policy symposium of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  • The university has made available hundreds of faculty experts on subjects ranging from psychological reactions to terror to the political/social factors associated with terrorism.

Here is a sampling of some of the work underway at the campuses and labs:

  • Scientists at UC-managed Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are analyzing instruments for detecting the telltale signs of nuclear materials smuggled in sealed cargo containers.
  • At UC San Diego, engineers are investigating ways to retrofit U.S. embassies and critical structures worldwide against bomb blasts. They are using composite overlays originally developed at UC San Diego to protect buildings from earthquakes.
  • Scientists at the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources are involved in efforts to detect, diagnose, and respond to foreign animal disease and have become part of the state’s strategic planning against terrorism.
  • UC Davis was recently awarded $2.9 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for development of regional networks to monitor plant and animal diseases, including potential bioterrorist agents.
  • At Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, scientists have devised a hand-held, non-radioactive baggage scanner that can detect knives, nuclear materials or plastic explosives hidden in a suitcase or cargo container.
  • At UC Berkeley and UC San Diego, researchers are developing on different varieties of what has come to be nicknamed “smart dust,” tiny electronic sensors that can detect biological or chemical agents. The San Diego version can be dispersed into a cloud of gas to detect toxics, or even inconspicuously attached to a wall or side of a truck
  • UC Irvine psychologist Roxane Cohen Silver is conducting a national study of the immediate and long-term emotional, cognitive and social responses to the Sept. 11 attacks.
  • UC San Francisco scientists and colleagues have developed the first drug that can be mass-produced to prevent or treat botulism, the paralyzing disease caused by a nerve toxin that is considered one of the greatest bioterrorism threats.
  • The Los Alamos and Livermore laboratories jointly developed a biological sentry system called BASIS that helped provide security at the Winter Olympics.
  • The UC Davis biosensors group lead by Ian Kennedy and Bruce Hammock is developing small "lab on a chip" systems for detecting biological weapons agents; the technology was originally conceived for detecting environmental pollutants, such as pesticides.
  • Los Alamos is creating a center for analyzing how natural or terrorist-generated disasters might affect traffic, the electrical grid and other features of the national infrastructure.
  • Livermore is researching the DNA signatures of harmful biological agents. The signatures can be used in various future technologies to identify harmful biological agents in the field.
  • UCI Professor Richard A. Matthew is working with prominent Southern California businesspeople and a range of academic and government experts to develop a center for the study of terrorism and other transnational threats.
  • The National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, jointly operated by the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and the Duke University Medical Center, and UCLA's Center for Community Health underwrote a film – “Surviving September 11th: The Story of One New York Family” – now showing on PBS that shows 9/11 from the perspective of three generations of one Brooklyn family — grandmother, mother and three-year-old daughter.
  • American studies scholars from around the world were at UC Santa Barbara during the summer studying the religious diversity of the United States and finding out how people with such differing beliefs can coexist; the program was funded by the State Department, which prior to 9/11 had not typically funded programs that explicitly address religion.
  • Professor Ashok Mulchandani of UC Riverside has assembled a team of experts from four different institutions to work on developing an analytical device for the detection of agents of terrorism, chemical warfare agents and explosives.
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