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Garrett Angus

Garrett Angus

As part of the Department of Homeland Security Transportation Security Laboratory Visiting Scientist Program, Garrett Angus tests explosive simulants as he works along experts who are striving to better detect the threat of improvised explosive devices.

Student helps make air travel more secure

The typical college student’s summer holiday is not spent enhancing homeland security, but Colorado School of Mines senior Garrett Angus spent the summer improving the efficiency of explosive detection systems for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

As part of an initiative called the Transportation Security Laboratory Visiting Scientist Program, Angus was part of a team performing research to better detect the threat of improvised explosive devices, also known as IEDs, by using explosive detection systems that characterize the makeup of domestic, foreign and homemade explosive compounds.

“The research done in those labs benefits the American public by coming up with new ways to identify explosives and improvise ways to create homemade explosives that mimic terrorists’ techniques, such as shoe bombs,” Angus said. “This allows for safer travel and better ways to detect threats that could be used in potential attacks.”

The overall objective of the TSL Visiting Scientists Program, which is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, is to enhance the quantity, quality and diversity of the future DHS scientific and engineering workforce. The experience has helped shape Angus’s career goals. After he graduates in 2011 with a degree in metallurgical and materials, he hopes to continue his studies in the field.

The aspect of the TSL program that Angus enjoyed most was learning from the professionals at Atlantic City International Airport, where his program was based. He enjoyed the daily conversation with people who took interest in his field of study and asked how he might solve a problem. “In turn, I enjoyed asking them how they might go about taking certain data and analyzing it,” he said.