U.Va. Applied Research Institute Connects Academia with Intelligence Community, Industry

March 23, 2010 — A new center has been established at the University of Virginia to address national security concerns ranging from the threat of a cyber attack on the U.S. financial system to the development of a potentially lethal genetic material.

The U.Va. Applied Research Institute, or ARI, was created to enlarge the scope of projects that University researchers can participate in with government intelligence agencies and private companies. The institute, located at the U.Va. Research Park on U.S. 29, has begun to secure contracts for unclassified projects and is holding a spring seminar series for the public and regional intelligence community.

The series is hosted by ARI's neighbor in the research park, Battelle Memorial Institute, a non-profit scientific and technology research and development organization that supports national security interests. The seminars offer University faculty an opportunity to showcase their science and technology research for the regional intelligence community, including the National Ground Intelligence Center, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity.

ARI secured its initial research contract with Syracuse Research Corporation for Mircea Stan, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, to study specialized integrated circuits. Several other contracts are in negotiation.

"We want to offer faculty across the University the opportunity to participate in unclassified research for the intelligence community," said Alf Weaver, director of the institute and professor of computer science. "ARI will allow faculty to use their talents to improve homeland security."

Studying scientific research published in other countries is an example of one possible research area for ARI.

"By surveying scientific literature from other countries, we can better understand what they are working on, especially in regard to chemical and biological warfare," Weaver said.

U.Va.'s strength in cyber security research also may be of interest to the intelligence community. Weaver cites a computer network security project headed by computer science professor John Knight as one example. In 2007, Knight and U.Va. computer science faculty colleagues Jack Davidson, Dave Evans and Westley Weimer secured a highly competitive $4.6 million Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative award from the Department of Defense for the project.

Battelle is interested in collaborating on research projects with U.Va. faculty through ARI, according to Adrian Felts, operations manager for the organization.

Felts said the seminar series is attracting interest from local government and companies that focus on national security, intelligence and the protection and support of soldiers. Topics include wireless sensor networks, image and video analysis, future-generation computer memory and logic, and the probabilistic requirements of simulation models.

For information about the seminar series, contact Alf Weaver at weaver@virginia.edu.

— By Zak Richards