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.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Careful What You Wish For

Before, my life (or the lack thereof) was an 8-5 rat race. After finishing college, I was ready to climb the corporate ladder. It turned out, the ladder was not for me (or should I build a ladder?)

The office hours brought my diversions to a halt, my soccer and reading. After school hours at UPLB, I played soccer, and being a student, you have access to the library to read the newspapers. I like to read. One of my favorite was PDI's Young Blood section. When I came to NEC to work, reading wasn't part of the job description. So, most of the time, I took the discarded newspaper from the janitors. It wasn't even a local newspaper, it was the Wall Street Journal, Asian version. But who cared, there was still sports and other sections to read.

Today, I do read---a lot, since I'm preparing for my Ph.D. oral qualifying exam after downing the written part early this year. Preparing for this kind of test is overwhelming. Digesting and absorbing a lot of information in three months is mind boggling.

Graduate school is a life of its own. Preparing for the processes to be a full pledge doctor is difficult and nerve wrecking. Here's how he process goes: The committee members ask you questions after presenting your research proposal, and they ask you things from the very basic to the very complicated related to your field. Then after a barrage of questions, they decide if you are ready for Ph. D. The only way out is read and read and read again months before. You aren't called an expert for nothing.

I do read now. Not much newspapers, but some blogs and books, and numerous scientific journals. You just be careful what you wish for.

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