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.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Meeting with The Boss II

Technically, my graduate adviser, my adviser in papers, is going to retire before I will finish my Ph.D. So I have two adviser, the younger one that I met yesterday and the older one that I met today.

The older more experienced adviser basically wanted to check on my progress and the problems encountered on my research. Meeting with experts is like having somebody open a flashlight in a dark trail. This light-bulb-eureka moments made me think of different avenues to pursue, since research is a venture to the unknown. The more unknown avenues you visit, the more likely you have results. But with the help of expert ideas, you are hoping to nail down the best avenue in the least possible time.

Next week, my advisers will be going to the Netherlands, at the FOM-Institute for Plasma Physics, to do some experiments. Why go there? Because one of the best LASER is found in the Netherlands (one in France and Japan). It's the Hubble Telescope of Infrared Spectroscopy.

I'm hoping (and praying) I will be going to that place to do research next year. Hoping. Right now I'm thinking of doing some experiments at the National High Magnetic Field Lab, just 2-hour ride from my school. It's a nice facility at our own backyard.

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