Technologically Speaking

By DHS Science and Technology Directorate

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Episodes: 29


Technologically Speaking is a podcast series that delivers insightful, thought-provoking, and unscripted conversations about timely national security challenges and the scientific solutions S&T is developing to tackle them.

Episode Date
Any Place Where People Congregate

The final episode of Technologically Speaking Season Two delves into the world of soft target security with S&T’s Ali Fadel. Host Dee Saini chats with Ali about what a soft target is (hint: check out the episode title), how S&T is collaborating with agencies at every level of government to keep venues and civilians safe, and promising new technologies being used to get the job done—including barriers recently deployed to Kansas City for the 2023 NFL Draft. 

May 31, 2023
Improving the Current Fleet

In this episode, host John Verrico chats with S&T’s Robert Klueg from our Transportation Security Laboratory (TSL) about how the lab is servicing the existing fleet of screening systems—a key part of the Screening at Speed Program. In part two of our two-part series on the program, John and Robert discuss new technologies that will make the screening process both quick and secure and reflect on the origins of TSL following the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. Be sure to listen to part one, “300 People Per Hour Per Lane,” which explains the Screening at Speed program, how it got started and where it’s going in the future. 

May 24, 2023
300 People Per Hour Per Lane

Could the future of the airport security line function like the self-checkout process at your local grocery store? Join host John Verrico and S&T Screening at Speed Program Manager Dr. John Fortune as they explore the future of passenger screening. Dr. Fortune and his team are working to improve the traveler experience during this vital process, and you won’t want to miss the discussions about new technologies in development that could make it happen. While this work is not without its challenges, Dr. Fortune and his team are optimistic about the impact they could have on a growing traveling public. 

May 17, 2023
Representing the Reality of Situations

Technologically Speaking spends some time with Syed Mohammad, lead for the Science and Technology Directorate’s Modeling and Simulation Technology Center.  Host Dee Saini has a fascinating conversation about the creation and accuracy of simulations and how they can be used to train first responders in realistic scenarios, plan large events and the movements of crowds through complex venues, and many other important tasks. Syed also talks about the metaverse—how it’s already here and what you should know about it.

May 10, 2023
NUSTL’s Bread and Butter

Host Deepak Saini is joined by Orly Amir, program manager for Radiological/Nuclear Response and Recovery (RNRR) at S&T’s National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL). Orly, a proud New Yorker, explains how this research and development program boosts preparedness for communities of all sizes across our nation and reveals why she finds planning for disasters to be fulfilling rather than stressful. You’ll appreciate the importance of NUSTL’s role in enhancing first responder capabilities and learn about the successful tools, models, and guidance the RNRR program provides. 

May 03, 2023
Keeping Criminals Up at Night

Technologically Speaking spends some time with Shane Cullen, program manager for the Forensics and Criminal Investigations Program at S&T. Like last week’s guest Patty Wolfhope, Shane understands the unquestionable value and importance of S&T’s efforts to catch criminals on the dark web and beyond. In this second installment of our two-part series on digital forensics and child exploitation, Shane discusses the role these tools play in catching the criminals who commit unthinkable acts, as well as other applications of the technologies in investigations. He also delves into the ways artificial intelligence is streamlining the process of sifting through (sometimes disturbing or voluminous) data and how this protects investigators.

Apr 25, 2023
Pain That Hurts and Pain That Alters

This episode discusses sensitive topics including violence against children. Listener discretion is strongly advised.

This is the first episode in a two-part series on how S&T is working to combat online child sexual exploitation and abuse. Host John Verrico is joined by Patricia (Patty) Wolfhope, subject matter expert in digital forensic systems, for an eye-opening discussion of the scope of this insidious threat and why developing tools to enhance law enforcement effectiveness is a top priority for the Department. Though some of the descriptions of what takes place on the dark web are very dark indeed, audiences will also leave this episode more aware of how to recognize signs of online exploitation and sextortion. The second part of this two-part series features Patty’s colleague, Shane Cullen, who will delve deeper into additional aspects of S&T’s digital forensics portfolio.

Apr 18, 2023
It’s Going to Be World Changing

Technologically Speaking sits down with Dr. Ann Cox, technical lead and subject matter expert in Cybersecurity and Quantum Information Science (QIS) at S&T. QIS, a disruptive phenomenon, is going to be like cell phones or the internet, according to Dr. Cox. She speaks with host Deepak Saini about the many ways that QIS is already affecting our world, and how S&T is preparing for the opportunities and challenges that QIS will bring in the future. From solving problems like limitations in MRIs, to changing the way governments secure their data—QIS will change the world 

Apr 11, 2023
The Power of Play

Hosts John Verrico and Deepak Saini sit down with S&T’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Sam Howerton, to pick his brain about all things science. Listen as Sam takes our hosts on a journey through a world of imagination and exploration as he shares his unique perspective. Sam discusses the ways scientists can help solve homeland security challenges, S&T’s role in the future, taking risks as an organization, and more. He also talks about what motivated him to pursue his career path and gives us a chemist’s explanation for why Nashville hot chicken is so good! This episode will change the way you think about science. You don’t want to miss it!

Apr 11, 2023
Tech Speak: Providing the Best Information to Save Lives

In this Tech Speak mini episode, Dr. Sarah Bereznicki from S&T’s Chemical Security Analysis Center (CSAC) discusses how the lab worked to secure both indoor and outdoor events during the week leading up to Super Bowl LVII. Listen as Dr. Bereznicki explains how her team used a predictive modeling tool to secure the event, walks through how the tool was developed, and discusses her team’s future plans. Dr. Bereznicki also runs through CSAC’s playbook and addresses a common assumption. 

Apr 11, 2023
Tech Speak: And the Rest is History

This week on Tech Speak, hear from five remarkable women in science at S&T, each with their own unique perspective and a shared passion for homeland security. The women share advice, their career paths, and anecdotes about their experience in making our nation safer. Their expertise spans food defense, resources for bomb squads, combatting child exploitation, the future of quantum, and preparing for a radiological or nuclear event. We are proud to have Jessica Cox, Ann Cox, Byung Hee Kim, Patty Wolfhope, and Orly Amir on our team and honored to highlight them for Women’s History Month!

Apr 11, 2023
Tech Speak: With Data Standards, You Know Exactly What to Expect

This week on Tech Speak, we sit down with S&T program manager Norman Speicher to discuss the urgent need for interoperability standards in response to the increasing effects of climate change—think floods or wildfires. Much of the response and recovery information that is gathered by flood sensors, wildfire sensors, and local agencies exists in unique and proprietary formats. Interoperability standards would allow these large amounts of data (that are already being collected) to be combined and shared, creating a clearer picture to prevent, plan for, and respond to emergencies. Tune in to hear Norman talk us through what happens when data can’t be shared, as well as S&T’s collaboration with the Open Geospatial Consortium, which helps ensure that it can be in the future.

Apr 11, 2023
Tech Speak: Shot Detected

This mini episode takes us to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey as S&T and its National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) field test a promising new gunshot detection system with law enforcement. Direct responder feedback is critical to S&T’s research and development process, ensuring that the final technology is something that not only meets their operational needs but ultimately keeps our communities and citizens safe. Hear S&T’s Anthony Caracciolo, NUSTL’s Brenda Velasco-Lopez, Chief Deputy Nicholas Lennie of the Story County (Iowa) Sheriff’s Department, and Wilhelm Thomas and Rick Carroll of the New York City Police Department’s Counterterrorism Division talk about how this system differs from existing gunshot detection technologies, and how it will help to shave minutes off response time.

Apr 11, 2023
Tech Speak: One Step Ahead of the Bad Guys

This Tech Speak mini episode takes you inside the recent National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) Urban Operational Experimentation (OpEx) event held in New York City in July 2022. Hear from NUSTL Director Alice Hong and Test Lead Bhargav Patel about why S&T hosts the event and why it is so critical to engage industry in first responder R&D. You’ll also hear from two responders directly: Chief Kevin McNamara of the New York City Fire Department shares how drones help him and his fellow firefighters tackle challenges they face in the field, and Officer Jason Rubenstein of the New York City Police Department discusses the importance of hands-on vetting of new technologies.

Apr 11, 2023
Tech Speak: It’s Fair, It’s Open, and It’s Kind of Welcomed with Both Arms

This Tech Speak mini episode brings you to the Maryland State Police Training Academy for a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the “Advanced Open/Obstructed Test Proctor Course for Evaluating Drone Capabilities and Remote Pilot Proficiency.” This training is based on standardized test methods developed by S&T and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The course consists of inexpensive materials, such as plastic buckets arranged in an easily replicable setup, enabling the consistent certification of drone pilots across various response agencies. Listen now to hear S&T Program Manager Kai-Dee Chu along with colleagues from NIST, U.S. Secret Service, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, and Maryland State Police discuss measurement science, testing best practices, and how ingenious courses like this one help make us all safer.

Apr 11, 2023
Tech Speak: Understanding What Responders Need

On this episode of Tech Speak, join S&T in Harbison State Forest, South Carolina, as we test a newly designed respirator tailored to help wildland firefighters breathe easier. These firefighters must travel light and work long days in remote conditions with little to no respiratory protection. They not only battle smoke, dust and flames, but also the hazardous respiratory risks that can come with it. Tune in to hear program manager Kimberli Jones-Holt explain how responder feedback helped shape the latest prototype of the Wildland Firefighter Respirator. And hear insights from test director Hasan Shahid from the National Urban Security Technology Laboratory as he walks through the test and evaluation exercise of this tech that will make a difference on the fire line.

Apr 11, 2023
Tech Speak: Try It on a Real Bomb

This Tech Speak mini episode offers a front row seat to a tech demonstration of counter-improvised explosive device (IED) technologies. Travel to the Charlie Demolition Range at Marine Corps Base Quantico and follow along as S&T’s Research and Prototyping for IED Defeat (RAPID) program has a blast partnering up with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). RAPID Program Manager Bill Stout was there along with FBI Supervisory Special Agent Dr. Ian Vabnick and numerous bomb squad technicians to see national security research and development in action. Listen now to discover what makes this program unique and why it’s so important.

Apr 11, 2023
Tech Speak: Processing Groups of People is the New Challenge

This Tech Speak mini episode gives you a unique inside perspective on our 2022 Biometrics Tech Rally. Listen as Arun Vemury, program manager in the Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Biometrics and Identity Technology Center, explains what a ‘Tech Rally’ is, the challenges being addressed by the Rally, and the focus of this year’s event. Arun also gives a demonstration of the facial recognition technology being tested at the event and walks you through how it works.

Apr 11, 2023
Tech Speak: All Hazards Focused

This Tech Speak mini episode lets you know exactly what the First Responder Resource Group (FRRG) is with a refresher from Paul McDonagh, former Seattle Assistant Police Chief and current S&T First Responder Portfolio Manager. You’ll discover why it’s so important to S&T innovation priorities and how it influences the research and development process. You’ll also hear directly from current FRRG members Steve Vandewalle, a helicopter rescue medic with the San Diego Fire Department; Jay Hagen, Chief of the Bellevue, Washington, Fire Department; and Rodney Reed of the Harris County, Texas, Fire Marshal's Office as they share their personal perspectives and highlight the recently released Project Responder 6 Report. 

Apr 11, 2023
Let’s Get the Science Guys in There

In this very special bonus episode, hosts John Verrico and Deepak Saini are joined by S&T’s new Under Secretary, Dr. Dimitri Kusnezov. He has previously served at the U.S. Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration and is eager to now put his leadership and scientific background to use guiding S&T into its 20th year and beyond. Dimitri, as he prefers his colleagues call him, discusses everything from artificial intelligence and machine learning to quantum computing and 5G. He also touches upon why it’s so important that science has a seat at the table when it comes to making policy decisions. Listen until the end to catch him letting his nerd flag fly during a series of rapid fire questions.

Apr 11, 2023
People Are Still Sort of Where It’s At

Host John Verrico is joined by Richard “Rik” Legault, PhD, who serves as Senior Advisor for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences for S&T’s Social Sciences Technology Center (SS-TC). Discover all that SS-TC does to support programs and inform policies across S&T by conducting assessments, analyzing risk, evaluating success, and more. Rik helps recontextualize the Department of Homeland Security mission in terms of how it relates to people, in addition to tech (you could say we’re Humanly Speaking in this episode), by using various relatable real-life examples. His unique perspective will change the way you think about national security and foster a greater appreciation for just how multifaceted S&T is.

Apr 11, 2023
We Have to Prepare to Be Surprised

Technologically Speaking host John Verrico sits down with Matthew Moe, Program Manager of the Probabilistic Analysis for National Threats Hazards and Risks, or PANTHR, program. Matthew recounts getting the call to study the virus that causes COVID-19, making discoveries about the effect of sunlight and ultraviolet on the disease, and sponsoring research to get answers quickly. Tune in to hear why Matthew considers himself the conductor to an orchestra of the nation’s leading scientists at the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center, what it’s like to solve unforeseen problems at the intersection of public health and national security, and his journey to S&T to do the work he loves.

Apr 11, 2023
Speed up the Cleanup

Technologically Speaking has a sobering and important conversation about preparing for chemical and biological contamination. Whether it’s intentional or unintentional, the impact of such an event would be staggering. S&T exists, in part, to research and test tools for complex cleanup scenarios that require acting quickly, efficiently and with confidence that hazardous material, like anthrax, is decontaminated. Guest Dr. Don Bansleben, a program manager at S&T specializing in chemical and biological threat detection, talks about the current work S&T is doing with U.S. government partners to prepare for these scenarios.

Apr 11, 2023
You Don’t Just Get the Nose with the Dog

With the help of Program Manager Guy Hartsough, our host John Verrico sniffs out the many ways S&T’s Detection Canine Program improves counter-IED (improvised explosive device) efforts. You’ll learn about the hard science behind the “art” of working with dogs and appreciate all that goes into turning a potential pet into a sophisticated tool for national security. You’ll find out what makes for a good detection canine and be able to better appreciate what it takes to work in law enforcement. From how training aids are designed and deployed, to why a centralized focal point for best practices is so crucial, this episode is a real treat.

Apr 11, 2023
Getting Creative About How to Get the Message Through

Host Dee Saini chats with Office of Science and Engineering program manager Sridhar Kowdley about testing technology in the New Mexico desert at JamX 2022, a field exercise where S&T evaluated tactics and technologies that help responders better deal with electronic jamming. Listen in as Sridhar discusses what jamming is and gives a rare inside look into the JamX exercise—including what it’s like to conduct an exercise amidst desert wildlife. This very special episode features clips from the field test as the action was unfolding and an interesting exchange on government acronyms and actress/science inventor Hedy Lamarr.

Apr 11, 2023
The Three-legged Stool

Host John Verrico sits down with Arun Vemury, program manager in the Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Biometrics and Identity Technology Center, to discuss facial recognition performance and fairness. They dive into how the technology works, how it has changed over time, current challenges and biases and what S&T is doing to overcome them. Arun and John also touch on whether facial recognition technology can distinguish between identical twins and the need for cameras that are designed to better accommodate the diversity of human faces and skin tones.

Apr 11, 2023
The First Responder Group Doesn’t Just Do Widgets

Host Dee Saini sits down with fellow Seattleite Paul McDonagh to discuss the stories beyond the “widgets” and how Paul came to lead not only S&T’s First Responder Capability R&D portfolio, but also the First Responder Resource Group—where he was once a volunteer. Paul relives his journey from leading fellow responders as assistant chief of the Seattle Police Department to his arrival at S&T, where he now guides research priorities like pinpointing firefighter location to within one centimeter and helping those battling wildfires breathe easier. In this episode, you’ll hear Paul address some of the current challenges those on the front lines are facing (like COVID-19), responders’ operational needs, and real advancements in tech—including gloves that actually fit! 

Apr 11, 2023
The Bomb Squad Is Not an Afterthought

Technologically Speaking host Dee Saini is joined by Byung Hee Kim who shares how her time in the military prepared her for her current role as S&T’s Response and Defeat Operations Support (REDOPS) program manager. Tune in to this episode as Byung Hee takes us back to her childhood in South Korea and shares both the journey that led her to work on counter-IED (improvised explosive device) efforts for the U.S. Marine Corps and for our nation’s bomb squads through her work at S&T. While we shine a spotlight on Byung Hee, she does the same for the unsung heroes of emergency response and ingenuity.

Mar 30, 2023
A Very Nasty Insecticide You Don’t Want in Your Food

Unless you don’t eat, our flagship episode covers a topic that affects us all—food defense. This wide-ranging and enthralling episode, hosted by S&T’s John Verrico, features Jessica Cox, Program Manager for Chemical Threat Characterization at the Chemical Security Analysis Center. Jessica kicks off the first season of the podcast, delving into food safety vs. food defense (hint: they aren’t the same thing). Tune in to learn how S&T fits into the picture of securing the nation’s food supply, and how terrorism, con artists and even domestic disputes can pose threats in ways you wouldn’t expect. Thinking about a future career in science? Jessica also shares her backstory, how she went from a Division I college athlete to a top-level scientist, and her advice to young women who feel intimidated breaking into a traditionally male realm.

Mar 30, 2023