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K-State students receive awards through national security departments

By Michelle Hall


Professors aren't the only ones at Kansas State University who are contributing to the safety of the nation through research and expertise. Since 2003, K-State students have been awarded seven security-related scholarships for research or further study. Their research has included looking at power grid systems, modeling Kansas' response to biological disease in livestock, researching atmospheric remote sensing of precipitation and studying adult education in the development of democracy and civil society.

Homeland Security Scholars and Fellows Program

K-Staters have received five Homeland Security Scholars and Fellows Program awards from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to develop future scientists in fields vital to homeland security. Students are selected for either undergraduate scholarships or graduate student fellowships. The awards cover tuition, provide a stipend and allow an internship with a federally affiliated agency that deals with homeland security. The program is open to all students interested in pursuing scientific and technological innovations that can be applied to the Department of Homeland Security mission. Applications are reviewed by more than 100 experts selected from a variety of fields, including physical, biological, social and behavioral sciences, engineering, mathematics and computer science.

Brad Hammerschmidt, Salina, a May 2004 graduate in natural resources and environmental science and geography, and Renee Ecklund, Herington, a May 2006 graduate in electrical engineering, were two of the 100 inaugural recipients of the scholarship in 2003. Hammerschmidt also was awarded a graduate student fellowship in 2004 for study at Colorado State University. K-State December 2004 industrial engineering graduate Julie Heaser, Salina, received a fellowship in 2005 to study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. K-State's newest Homeland Security Scholar is Zachary P. Maier, Ottawa, who will be a junior at K-State this fall in computer engineering and psychology.

Hammerschmidt interned with ANSER, Advancing National Strategies and Enabling Results, in the summer of 2004 as a scholar, and in summer 2005, interned with Los Alamos National Laboratories for his fellowship. He worked at K-State on a joint project with ANSER, modeling the state of Kansas' response to biological disease in livestock. His part of the project included created a Geographic Information Systems database for ANSER. At Los Alamos, Hammerschmidt performed water vapor retrievals from the ground and from satellites to see how they compared to one another.

"The Department of Homeland Security wanted the best young minds in science from around the country to apply their discipline to homeland security topics," Hammerschmidt said.

"For example, my discipline is atmospheric science. My main point was that the Department of Homeland Security should have a better understanding and response to meteorological situations for manmade disasters -- such as tracking a biological or chemical agent released by a terrorist -- as well as natural disasters, such as tornadoes and hurricanes.

"Hurricane Katrina unfortunately proved my point." Hammerschmidt said he is hoping to work in a government laboratory after receiving his master's degree.

Ecklund interned with the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, now called the Idaho National Laboratory, in summer 2004. She developed an interactive model of the power grid and the system used to plan, operate and maintain the grid, called a SCADA system, the laboratory manages for its own use. Usable models will be developed to simulate system breakdowns and alternative courses of action, she said.

"Homeland security encompasses more than protecting our nation from terrorist threats," she said. "It also includes protecting our citizens when natural disasters occur. I am proud to be involved with a program with that mission."

Ecklund said the internship was her first opportunity to work within power systems, her degree emphasis. She accepted a position as a power engineer with the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Md., where she interned in summer 2005.

Heaser is interning with Los Alamos National Laboratory this summer, working on a disease modeling project using EpiCast, a simulation modeling software. Her research at Wisconsin involved working with blood banks and software vendors to apply radio frequency identification, an automatic identification method, to the blood supply chain.

"Our hope is to improve the efficiency of and data integrity within blood banks' processes so that transfusion recipients are ensured the highest quality, safest blood products possible," Heaser said. She is also about to begin another project, looking at how much a company should be willing to spend to mitigate the risk of financial losses from terrorist attacks or natural disasters.

"This program has given me the opportunity to go back to school to further my education and given me a link to the Department of Homeland Security and its interests," she said. "I am really interested in working in homeland security at the juxtaposition of public policy and engineering, so this fellowship has been really exciting for me."

The scholarship/fellowship program was created to support the growth and mentoring of the next generation of scientists who study ways to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America's vulnerability to terrorism and minimize the damage and recovery efforts from attacks that occur.

Boren Scholarships/Fellowships for Study Abroad, National Security Education Program

Two K-State students also have received Boren Scholarships/Fellowships for Study Abroad through the National Security Education Program.

This program allows students to pursue specialization in area and language study or to add an international dimension to their education. Recipients are highly encouraged to pursue studies in one of the geographic areas, languages or fields of study identified by the program as critical to U.S. national security.

Wendy Griswold, Lawrence, a doctoral student in adult, occupational, continuing education, received a Boren fellowship in 2004, while Seth Bridge, Buhler, a May 2005 graduate in political science, history and international studies, received a Boren scholarship in 2004. Griswold also works full time at the K-State Center for Hazardous Substance Research. She also was a Fulbright fellowship finalist.

Through the fellowship, Griswold has been able to work with a private Russian language tutor both in Kansas and in the Altai Republic, an autonomous republic of the Russian Federation. In summer 2005, she traveled to the republic for three months, studying and conducting independent research. Her studies focus on documenting the sources of adult education in the Altai Republic. She is looking into the role of adult education in the development of democracy and civil society and has begun developing her dissertation topic based on the work she's done.

Griswold said although she has traveled to Russia on several occasions, the fellowship provided her the means for a longer, more productive trip.

"Being able to spend several months there helped my language skills progress significantly -- immersion is really important," she said. "It also allowed me to develop relationships and contacts that will make it possible for me to conduct my dissertation research.

"In general, I think this is a really important program," Griswold said. "I think it's essential that more Americans spend time in other countries and not just as tourists. Programs like this give us the opportunity to more deeply understand different cultures and local contexts and realities. We would be a much better country and this would be a much better world if more of us could participate in these types of activities."

In 2004 Bridge studied in a Russian language immersion program at Irkutsk State Linguistic University in Siberia and then studied Russian foreign policy at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

"Probably the most interesting thing that I was exposed to in Russia was the Russian and post-Soviet psyche," Bridge said. "Suffice to say that 70 years of Soviet rule has had a profound effect on Russians themselves. Certainly the economic impacts have been, for the most part, devastating. But perhaps more interesting was the sociological impact upon the people. Russians don't look at the world the same way we do; they are much more cynical about human nature and politics."

Bridge completed his first year of law school at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. He recently returned to the former Soviet Union, where this summer he is working on constitutional reform and anti-corruption issues in the Republic of Georgia. He said the Boren scholarship he received is extremely important -- not only to him, as it has given him many opportunities -- but also for the nation and world.

"With each passing year, globalization brings everyone together," Bridge said. "It is essential to know other languages, but also other cultures and customs. At the same time, globalization is not discriminating; it can bring the bad and good. Certainly globalization made it easier for the 9/11 attacks to take place. The U.S. must be able to embrace these emerging threats. And the first step in embracing these threats is acquiring the requisite knowledge and understanding. Because of this, the Boren scholarships are absolutely essential for future U.S. national security."


Summer 2006