Examining complex game theory models in the context of homeland security and nuclear terrorism
Examining complex game theory models in the context of homeland security and nuclear terrorism

The project involved applying complex game theory models to understand how to use limited counter-terrorism resources to protect against a nuclear attack. It focused on how to effectively screen for nuclear material and prevent an attack.

Student researcher: Garrett Howe (B.S. ’12/H&S; B.S. ’12/En)

Faculty mentor: Laura McLay, Ph.D., assistant professor, VCU Department of Statistical Sciences and Operations Research

Howe: The summer after my freshman year, I was working with one of Dr. McLay’s master’s students on a paper that Dr. McLay was publishing. It was published back in spring 2011. [McLay, L. A., Dreiding, R., & Howe, G. L. (2011). Rethinking the Encounter Probability for Direct-to-Target Nuclear Attacks for Aviation Security. Journal of Transportation Security 4(3), 447-480.] My name was listed as one of the authors.

I also did research on swarm intelligence for Dr. McLay the summer after my sophomore year. If I had questions, I could ask her but she wasn’t constantly looking over my shoulder or micromanaging me. It was kind of like what an actual Ph.D. program would be in terms of that degree of freedom.

Undertaking such a large problem by yourself, having to figure it out over the course of a summer and then making up a poster on it and presenting that, I think it was a good experience overall. Do research even if you’re not planning to go to graduate school because any company you go to work for is going to want someone who can be independent and has problem-solving skills.

McLay: I think it’s really great to expose students to research at the undergraduate level because it really helps inform them with making career choices. Do they want to go to grad school? Some of them do undergraduate research and they realize that research really isn’t for them and maybe they don’t want to go to grad school. They just want to go out and have a successful engineering career but not have a research-based one. And that’s valuable as well.

I really like doing undergraduate research. I’ve had a number of successful projects at the undergraduate level and I’ll continue to do them. I think we have a lot of good undergraduate students here at VCU. You want to educate the next generation and get the outstanding students like Garrett to go on and do wonderful things.