ACDIS-Sandia Security Seminar Series 2021-2022

ACDIS and Sandia National Laboratories' are hosting a joint security seminar series for the Fall 2021-Spring 2022 school year

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Meeting ID: 846 3131 8462
Password: security

Fifth Event:

Tuesday November 30, 2021 at 6pm on Zoom, Zoe N. Gastelum will be presenting "The Development of Real-World Validated Synthetic Imagery for Nuclear Non-Proliferation Computer Vision Tasks."

Abstract: The scarcity of large, labeled data sets is a barrier to the development of computer vision models in many domains. In international nuclear safeguards, images of relevant equipment and technologies may be rare due to commercial or proprietary concerns, limited historical examples of proliferation-relevant technology, and sensitivity concerns for otherwise relevant examples. Labeling even this limited data is expensive, requires subject matter expertise, and is prone to human error and disagreement. In previous work, Sandia demonstrated that synthetic two-dimensional images rendered from 3D computer-aided design (CAD) models can be used to train deep learning models when real-world data is limited. In this presentation, I will describe our current work to develop a large labelled dataset containing 1 million real-world, synthetic, and adversarial images of 30B and 48 containers used to store and transport uranium hexafluoride (UF6), as well as distractor examples. I describe how we will validate the synthetic images using multiple deep learning algorithm types and models, using explainability measures to identify biases and re-render images to counter those biases. The resulting dataset will support a range of computer vision research topics, some of which I will discuss. 

Biography: Zoe Gastelum is a Principal Member of the Technical Staff in the International Safeguards and Engagements Departments at Sandia National Laboratories. Zoe has worked at Sandia since February 2015, in which time her research has focused on information sources, analytical techniques, and methods for open-source and other data analysis supporting international nuclear safeguards verification, and the performance of human-information systems. Prior to joining Sandia, Zoe spent five years as a nonproliferation research scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory conducting research projects on computational models and methods for information analysis in support of nuclear nonproliferation objectives, focusing on open-source data analysis and human behavioral modeling, and advanced information and communication technologies for international nuclear safeguards. Zoe also spent two years as an open-source information analyst in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Department of Safeguards, where she led the content development and distribution of a daily safeguards morning briefing for the Department of Safeguards, and conducted open source information analysis for over 20 countries per year.

Fourth Event:

Thursday November 18, 2021 at 6pm in the Armory Room 345 and through Zoom, Professor Matthew Winters will be presenting "Foreign Pressure and Public Opinion in Target States"

Abstract: To influence states’ treatment of their citizens, other international actors deploy a broad array of tools, including moral suasion and material assistance. The efficacy of this foreign pressure is often contingent on how publics in target states respond. Employing survey experiments, we examine how two common tools of external influence—verbal condemnation and the threat of aid withdrawal—affect public opinion in three Asian states that have been criticized for their human rights practices: Myanmar, Nepal, and Indonesia. By paying attention to their domestic political contexts, our results shed light on the conditions under which international pressure is effective or alternatively counterproductive. Overall, we find that in the face of foreign pressure, support for the status quo government policy becomes stronger among the incumbent’s supporters. In contrast, those who are not government partisans are more likely to support policy change in line with the preferences of the international community.

Biography: Matthew S. Winters is Professor and Associate Head for Graduate Programs in the Department of Political Science at the University of Illinois.  His research interests include the allocation and effectiveness of foreign aid, the political-economy of governance, and voter attitudes toward corruption.  He has conducted research in Bangladesh, Brazil, Indonesia, Malawi, Mali, and Uganda.  Winters has published articles in Journal of Politics, Comparative Politics, International Studies Quarterly, World Development, World Politics, and Political Research Quarterly, among other outlets, and has worked as a consultant for USAID, AusAID, and the World Bank’s Independent Evaluations Group.  Winters received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University and was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at Princeton University.  During the fall of 2016, Winters was a Council on Foreign Relations / Hitachi International Affairs Fellow in Japan affiliated with the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.  


Third Event:

Thursday November 4, 2021 at 6pm in the Armory Room 345 and through Zoom, Dr. Mallory Stites will be presenting "Cognitive Science of Safeguards to Nonproliferation" 

Abstract: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards inspectors are faced with the difficult task of learning the layout of a complex nuclear facility while being passively led on a guided route of the facility, while also engaging in several other inspection-related tasks. The current study addresses a gap in the literature regarding how to present these inspectors with building layout information to best support the development of their spatial knowledge, while addressing their specific constraints—namely, the inability to bring digital devices into most safeguarded facilities. We tested whether viewing a map before learning a guided route or carrying a map on a guided route enabled better spatial learning than having no initial exposure to a map. Moreover, we tested the efficacy of carrying maps with different levels of detail (simple, complex, sketch-up), as well as map type interactions with an individual’s sense of direction, on spatial learning outcomes and situational awareness of the environment. Findings showed that carrying an easy to read map lowered situational awareness for incidentally-learned landmarks along the route, as measured by slower response times relative to the no map control. However, for all other measures of spatial knowledge, map type effects interacted with sense of direction: people with a good sense of direction benefitted from all map types relative to control expect for a very complex map (and vice-versa for people with poor sense of direction), suggesting that people may not have attempted to use the very complex map. Our results suggest that no one map type is “best” to support spatial knowledge development in this context. First, we recommend that IAEA inspectors self-assess their sense of direction, and that people with low sense of direction might consider avoiding map exposure, as it does not seem to improve their spatial learning. Moreover, because we did not find benefits for carrying the map during route learning even for people with good sense of direction, and indeed saw detriments to situational awareness, we recommend that inspectors avoid referring to a map during their inspection unless it is critical for their inspection duties.

Biography: Mallory Stites is a Senior Member of the Technical Staff in the Applied Cognitive Science Department at Sandia National Laboratories. She is also one of the Campus Partnership Managers for the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Mallory received her PhD in Psychology from the University of Illinois is 2014, where she studied language comprehension processes using techniques such as eye-tracking and human electrophysiology. After working as a postdoctoral research associate at Binghamton University studying developmental neuroscience, she joined the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories in 2016. At Sandia, Mallory has conducted cognitive science experiments and technology assessments across a number of technical fields and programs, including nuclear nonproliferation, cybersecurity, explainable machine learning, data visualization, human decision making, and homeland security. In her role as Campus Partnership Manager, she works to enable research relationships and strategic engagements between SNL and UIUC.


Second Event:

Thursday October 21, 2021 at 6pm, Professor Praveen Kumar will be presenting on "Enhancing U.S. National Security through Scalable Water Security Solutions" on Zoom.

Abstract: Water security which refers to sustainable access to adequate quantities of acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being has been identified as a high priority national security issue through a number of national and international reports. Access to freshwater is essential for economic growth, social justice, political stability, development of sophisticated societies, and reduced social unrest and population migration. Drivers of risk evolution in freshwater access is associated with increasing demand due to population and economic growth, climate change and resulting impact on precipitation variability (magnitude, timing, duration, frequency, persistence), and extremes of floods and droughts. Two primary approaches to addressing water security issue are demand management and supply management. Significant challenges to demand management have arisen due to climate variability & change such as increased need for water in warmer climate, increase in drought frequency and persistence, expansion of dry regions, etc. and due to increase in population and economic activity. Increasing supply is no longer possible due to stressed ground water resources, snow cover loss, increased evapotranspiration, etc. Traditional solutions are no longer adequate, and a radically new approach is required to address these challenges. The talk will present proof of concept of a transformative approach to achieve this goal at scale.

Biography: Professor Praveen Kumar holds a B.Tech. (Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, India 1987), M.S. (Iowa State University 1989), and Ph.D. (University of Minnesota 1993), all in civil engineering. Kumar joined as a faculty at Univ. of Illinois in 1995 where he has been since. His research deals with Hydrocomplexity, the quantitative understanding and prediction of emergent patterns of form and function that arise from complex non-linear multi-scale interactions between soil, water, climate, vegetation and human systems; and how this understanding can be used for innovative solutions to water and sustainability challenges. He has made extensive, deep and signature contributions pertaining to Critical Zone science for intensively managed landscapes, biosphere-hydrosphere interactions, multi-scale variability of hydrologic processes, hydro-geomorphology, hydroinformatics, and information theory in geosciences.


First Event:

Thursday October 14, 2021 at 6pm in the Armory Room 345. Professor Matthias Grosse Perdekamp will be presenting on "The Iran Nuclear Deal? A Plea for Nuclear Arms Control in Uncertain Times."

Abstract: The first nuclear weapon was tested in Alamogordo, NM, in July 1945. In the following month, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed through the explosion of two nuclear warheads. These horrifying strikes directly led to the surrender of Japan almost 4 years after its attack on Pearl Harbor. An industrial scale effort with more than 130,000 employees produced the first nuclear fission weapons during World War II. With the United States and its allies facing totalitarian aggressors in the European and Pacific theaters, many elite scientists, engineers, and technicians supported the Manhattan Project through their scientific and technological innovations. 75 years later, despite enormous international efforts to create an effective system of nuclear arms control agreements that seek to limit nuclear weapons technology to the initial nuclear powers, knowledge and technology have further proliferated. Today nine countries possess nuclear weapons.

Alarmingly important arms control treaties have been challenged also by leading nuclear weapon states: The United States and Russia have ended the Intermediate Nuclear Force Treaty. Failure in the negotiations for an extension of the New START treaty was avoided only at the last moment. The United States has withdrawn from the JCPOA (the "Iran Nuclear Deal"). Both the United States and Russia have withdrawn from the Open Skies Arms Control Treaty.

The colloquium will review possible consequences of nuclear war and nuclear terrorism and explain the system of arms control treaties that have been put into place to contain this threat over the past 70 years. We will briefly review challenges different arms control agreements have been facing in the recent past. Some focus will be placed on the Iran Nuclear Deal, an agreement that aims to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons to Iran. We will discuss the recent history, including the US withdrawal in 2018 and current efforts to re-negotiate the agreement.

Biography: Professor Matthias Grosse Perdekamp is a nuclear physicist at the University of Illinois. He serves as head of the Department of Physics and as director of the UIUC Program for Arms Control and Domestic and International Security, ACDIS. He explores the Physics of nuclear forces and the structure of the fundamental building blocks of nuclear matter through accelerator-based experiments at European Laboratory for Nuclear and Particle Physics, CERN, in Geneva Switzerland. His laboratory is developing advanced instrumentation for the detection of ionizing radiation. These instruments also can be utilized for the detection of fissile material. He teaches a longstanding course on Nuclear War and Arms Control as part of the ACDIS security certificate for undergraduate students at UIUC.