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Rewarding summer for students involved with BTI Summer 2019

Student involvement and success are a critical aspect of the Borders, Trade, and Immigration Institute's Education and Training initiatives. This past summer, four students experienced that success first hand.


Sarah Donaldson, Cadet, United States Military Academy at West Point


Cadet Donaldson conducted research over the summer under the guidance of Larry Shi, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the University of Houston, and Chris Bronk, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the University of Houston. Over three weeks, Cadet Donaldson conducted literature reviews focused on cryptocurrency, illicit marketplaces, and overall concerns of cybersecurity.

"Cryptocurrency has no borders," said Cadet Donaldson, "because it is so international, every government would have to agree on the level and type of regulation."

As a cadet, and with a potential military career in cybersecurity in her future, Cadet Donaldson also discussed the Department of Defense's efforts to modernize its cyber capabilities, including defining cyberspace as its "fifth domain" in line with land, sea, air and space.

Cadet Donaldson's presentation can be found here



Nicholas Randol, graduate student, University of the Incarnate Word


Mr. Randol conducted research over the summer with Nursen Zanca, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Economics in the H-E-B School of Business at UIC, as part of the Department of Homeland Security Minority Serving Institute Summer Research Team program. Luis Torres, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Research and Strategic Partnerships for the Graduate College of Social Work at the University of Houston, mentored the team as they investigated the methodology and meaning behind the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) and explored the feasibility of developing a more refined, regionally-focused index. 

The GTI is estimated from a database collected by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism (START) DHS Center of Excellence. The GTI ranks nations based on terrorist activity factors. 

The UIC team presented their research findings to the BTI Institute Management team on 24 July 2019. The presentation was the culmination of ten weeks of research, which had four objectives: investigate the methodology and the meaning of the Global Terrorism Index; investigate the past and present trends in the GTI score for the United States; investigate the economic cost of terrorism to the U.S. economy; and investigate an alternative index, called the "Regional Terrorism Index" for a metropolitan area. 

Randol then presented the findings as part of the Student Poster Competition during the 2019 COE Summit in Arlington, VA on 30 July 2019. 

Mr. Randol's presentation can be found here



Ha Le, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Houston


Mr. Le conducted research with Ioannis Kakadiaris, Ph.D., under the project, "EDGE: The 'Eye in the Woods' Image-based Face Detection and Recognition System." Le participated in the 2019 COE Summit, and submitted a poster on his research for the Student Poster Competition and participated in the Student Grand Challenge. He received first place for his poster and his grand challenge team received second place for "Drone-Based MIR Laser-Induced Thermal Imaging for Identification of Chemical Substances."

Dr. Kakadiaris' project can be found here



 Keshav Kasichainula, Ph.D. student, University of Houston


Mr. Kasichainula conducted research with Larry Shi, Ph.D., under the project "Transforming Trade and Ensuring Global Supply Chain Security with Blockchain and Smart Contracts." Kasichainula participated in the 2019 COE Summit, submitting a poster on his research for the Student Poster Competition and teamed up with students from other DHS COEs during the Student Grand Challenge. His grand challenge team received first place for their innovative approach to managing unmanned aerial systems, titled "Automated Drone Integrated Information System."

Dr. Shi's research project can be found here