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.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Meeting With The Boss

photo from wikipidia

Being a graduate student means you are free to do and implement your ideas for experiment, sort of an independent research. But there's no such thing as independent research, at least in my opinion. You still need to meet with your graduate adviser to discuss your progress and check if what you are proposing is feasible in the realm of science and the latest technology. Besides, your adviser is the expert, his line of thinking is very different from the student.

I been working with an expensive (expensive over-all and its maintenance, a superconducting magnet that needs to be cool down 24/7) instrument for over a year now, and I thought I know most of the tricks. In turns out I don't. My boss told me about signal to noise ratio, the resolution, the nyquist criteria, zero filling and apodize. I know it sound like a different language but I'm blogging this to remind me that education is a continuous process.

You learn new things everyday.

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