Center aims to evaluate security risks

USC’s National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events held an informational session to increase awareness on campus and to recruit potential researchers on Thursday.

Securing information · Stephen Hora, director of the USC Homeland Security Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, tells students about the type of research the center conducts. - Zhiyi Feng | Daily Trojan

CREATE, operated jointly by the Sol Price School of Public Policy and Viterbi School of Engineering, is the first of 12 Centers of Excellence, sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, in the country.

With 30 research projects a year, CREATE trains more than 100 students in homeland security issues. It provides education opportunities for graduate students looking to specialize in homeland security and to earn professional certifications, CREATE Director Stephen Hora said.

Some of their current projects include partnerships with the NFL regarding stadium security and with the Transportation Security Administration concerning airport security. Recently, CREATE studied the effects of a hypothetical anthrax attack on Seattle. Their findings helped determine how to minimize the damages that would be done to the people as well as the economy, Hora said.

The brainchild of Randolph Hall, senior vice president for research at USC, CREATE began as a response to 9/11 and quickly developed into an active presence in the United States’ counter-terrorism effort.

“Randy Hall’s idea was, ‘Let’s not just react, let’s engage in deep interdisciplinary research to solve the problem and mindset to prevent the terrorism events,’” said Gisele Ragusa, the associate director of education at CREATE. “Instead of just reacting we have to be proactive and we need to do this kind of proactive work by engaging in comprehensive inter-disciplinary research.”

USC worked with the Department of Homeland Security to develop the idea for the center, which works with institutions in the states and abroad. The mission of the Homeland Security Centers of Excellence is to produce ideas, technology and research for the Department of Homeland Security.

CREATE aims to evaluate the risk and consequences of terrorism both to United States’ society and economy in an attempt to prevent future attacks.

“This issue is not going to go away unless we confront it from the standpoint of research. We need to begin to understand both psychologically, economically and in terms of strategy how terrorists think and operate and we need to do that using contemporary research with an interdisciplinary focus across engineering, public policy, economics, psychology, statistics, etc.,” Ragusa said.

Samrat Chatterjee, a postdoctoral research associate at CREATE, said the work is fulfilling.

“It’s not just making the country secure,” Chatterjee said. “At times people feel that they can contribute to some sort of greater good. … If your efforts or research can lead to a more secure campus, community or society, that’s something that can get [people] motivated to at least get interested in knowing more.”