LEVI McPHERSON, a graduate student of analytical chemistry at the University of North Central Florida, is approached by agents of the Homeland Security’s Counter-terrorism Unit. The agency is recruiting Lee to study and expose the loopholes of screening instruments in airports. Struggling financially, he accepted the offer, making him a paid, benevolent hacker of the nation’s gateway. Yet Levi is horrified when an Airbus from Los Angeles disintegrated in mid-air.

At 40, when everybody’s career trajectory is going up, Levi’s still a poor graduate student, struggling financially. His research projects however, are worth million dollars. Researching the highly classified and heavily guarded secrets of detecting traces of explosives, what Lee know was a goldmine. The agency's offer is his financial break . So Levi tackles the problem like a scientist, detailing the loopholes of the aviation security and turning what he knew into a big time money machine.

JIM and JONATHAN of the counter-terrorism unit, where nowhere to be found after Charlotte International Airport, a hub of Delta Airlines closed abruptly because of instrument malfunctions in their security lines. And in a post-Osama Bin Laden’s era, the biggest blow to the United Stated after the 9/11 disaster comes unexpectedly when a passenger plane blew up in the skies of Washington D.C., in the heart of the nation.

Levi knew it was only the start of more troubles, so he recruits his fellow graduate students to counter the future attacks. They have to think like criminals—and scientists too. With the help of FBI counter-terrorism experts, Homeland Security and Transportation Security Agency, the team races to close and plug the loopholes Lee identified.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On-the Job Training (OJT)

For the past days, my bosses were out of the country. My older Boss went to Hawaii for the summer break, then headed to the Netherlands for research. My younger adviser followed the same route, except for the Hawaii and the research part. So they're both in the Netherlands, the younger one visiting his girlfriend.

While they are out, I'm here in Gainesville with my 2 group mates. Both of my groupmates are eventually leaving this year, and since they have a combined 12 years experienced in research, I need to suck up all the knowledge and information that they can impart before I'm left on my own handling a high voltage, superconducting magnet with a delicate laser, just like a newbie, an OJT. These are expensive instruments that eat up a lot of electricity for the sake of science. Although I've handled this things before, I need more hands on experience to perfect my craft (just like today when power was interupted and trouble shooting was needed).

In a lighter side, my two group mates are very helpful. And they are both huge. I jokingly call them "the man" and "the tiger". The man is around 6' 5" tall, 300 lbs. Tiger is a smaller version. So you can imagine myself as the quarterback protected by the two offensive linemen. "The man" likes to work with the hard wares and "tiger" tinkers more on the software side. This explains why "tiger" has connection to several U.S. supercomputers housed at the Army, Naval and Air Force. He showed me a device that generates passwords every 40 seconds when he connects to secure computers to do his calculations.

Anyway, life goes on. Fortunately, they pay me for doing my OJT.

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