Updated July 29 at 5:44pm

Explosive research norm at University of R.I. center

'The last 2 graduating students had 3 solid job offers.'

The Center of Excellence for Explosives Detection, Mitigation and Response, one of only 12 of its kind nationally, lies quietly but actively in the heart of the University of Rhode Island’s South Kingstown campus, thanks to federal funding that next year will be up for renewal.

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Focus: TECHNOLOGY

Explosive research norm at University of R.I. center

'The last 2 graduating students had 3 solid job offers.'

Posted:

The Center of Excellence for Explosives Detection, Mitigation and Response, one of only 12 of its kind nationally, lies quietly but actively in the heart of the University of Rhode Island’s South Kingstown campus, thanks to federal funding that next year will be up for renewal.

On July 1, the university began its last year of a five-year, $5.15 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Co-Director Jimmie Oxley expects the URI center to be in the mix when the competitive grant process commences this fall. At stake is a multiyear, multimillion dollar grant that would fund the program for years to come.

The center’s supporters say it is one of the nation’s most important resources for research and training in combating terrorism. It has been a boon to the school, enabling students to study the finer details of potential threats, particularly involving the use of plastic explosives. Over the last few years, plastics have seemingly been terrorists’ weapon of choice, used in cases involving copy-machine toner cartridges and the “underwear bomber,” among others.

If the school can retain the center, it will enjoy the added bonus of a new home, thanks to an approved 2010 bond referendum for a $61 million chemistry building. The new facility will replace a smaller space in the 61-year-old Pastore Hall.

The new facility will be about 118,000 square feet, almost twice the size of Pastore. It is expected to triple the amount of space for teaching labs and nearly double the space for research labs. This will allow the chemistry department to increase lab seats by nearly 50 percent. It is expected to be completed in 2014.

The construction of a new facility with increased room for research labs would demonstrate URI’s commitment to the center and could increase the school’s chances for having its federal grant as a Center of Excellence renewed next year.

URI is partnered with the Center of Excellence for Awareness & Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) – with Northeastern University. Together, the two research the detection and remediation of explosives. A total of 20 schools participate in the national program.

“URI handles characterization, mitigation of explosives and detection,” Oxley said. For example, department of mechanical-engineering professor Arun Shukla is investigating “sandwich composites” that alternate between hard and soft as a construction material for a wall, in order to minimize impact.

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