ACDIS-Sandia Security Seminar Series 2021-2022

ACDIS and Sandia National Laboratories' are hosting a joint security seminar series from October 2021-April 2022

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Meeting ID: 846 3131 8462
Password: security

"Climate Change and Security in Europe"
Speaker: Dr. Clifford Singer - UIUC
Time: Thursday, April 7, 2022 at 6pm on Zoom

Abstract: A comparatively simple integrated assessment model is used to examine economic impacts of an EU commitment in 2021 to achieving zero net CO 2 emissions. An analysis of previous policy-makers statements on the reasons for EU to implement that policy even without commitments from other countries did not reveal substantial interest in possible security benefits of reduced fossil fuel imports. As of April of 2022, there have been substantial security-related changes in EU energy systems plans.

Biography: Clifford Singer is a Research Professor, an Emeritus Professor having held appointments in Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering and in Political Science, and a faculty member and former director of the Program in Arms Control & Domestic and International Security at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research concentrates on development of the Climate Action Gaming Experiment simulations of international negotiation concerning climate change policies and on consequences of use of military force.

"Experimental Wargaming Methods for Studying Deterrence in Hypothetical Escalation Scenarios."
Speakers: Dr. Kiran Lakkaraju and Dr. Andrew Reddie - Sandia
Time: Thursday March 24, 2022 at 6pm online on Zoom

Abstract: Wargames are increasingly being developed and applied to address both the military and policy aspects of nuclear weapons strategy, particularly in light of multi-domain conflict. Evaluation of how strategic decisions are made that can impact escalation from hybrid (gray zone) and conventional warfighting to nuclear conflict is critically important for understanding how military and political leaders regard nuclear weapons for deterrence and international security. These methods have also been applied beyond the military realm, to examine phenomena as varied as elections, government policy, international trade, and supply-chain mechanics. Today, a renewed focus on wargaming combined with access to sophisticated and inexpensive drag-and- drop digital game development frameworks and new cloud computing architectures have democratized the ability to enable multiplayer gaming experiences. With the integration of simulation tools and experimental methods from a variety of social science disciplines, a science-based experimental gaming approach has the potential to transform the insights generated from gaming by creating human-derived, large-n datasets for replicable, quantitative analysis.

In this talk, we will describe our efforts in building the experimental wargaming framework SIGNAL, in which players, who take on the role of a hypothetical country’s senior military/political leadership, cooperate with or compete against the other players in a virtual world to optimize their infrastructure and resources while avoiding loss of home territory to conventional militarized invasions or nuclear war.  SIGNAL comes in three forms: a seminar-based game, a board game, and an online game. We will describe our results exploring the impact of nuclear weapons with tailored effects on deterrence during conflict escalation, based on several hundred online game playthroughs.

Biography: Dr. Kiran Lakkaraju is a Principal Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories, California in the Systems Research & Analysis III group. Kiran is a computer scientist that focuses on studying problems of national interest using data-driven methods. He uses Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, modeling & simulation, online experiments, and wargaming to study topics spanning consumer purchasing decisions, language and (dis)information diffusion, attitude change, cybersecurity and deterrence. Kiran has a background in artificial intelligence, multi-agent systems and computational social science. He holds a M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Biography: Dr. Andrew Reddie is senior member of technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories and an Assistant Professor of Practice in Cybersecurity at UC Berkeley’s School of Information where he works on projects related to cybersecurity, nuclear weapons policy, wargaming, and emerging military technologies. His work has appeared in Science, the Journal of Cyber Policy, and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists among other outlets and has been variously supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, MacArthur Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Energy's Nuclear Science and Security Consortium.


"Advancing Agroecosystem Monitoring and Modeling from Field to Regional Scales for National Food and Bioenergy Security"
Speaker: Professor Kaiyu Guan - UIUC
Time: Thursday March 10, 2022 at 6pm online on Zoom

Abstract: Dr. Kaiyu Guan will share his group's work on using multi-scale sensing and modeling for agricultural productivity and sustainability, which has significant implications for national food and bioenergy security. 

Biography: Dr. Kaiyu Guan is a Blue Waters Associate Professor in ecohydrology and remote sensing and the Founding Director of Agroecosystem Sustainability Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He got his PhD at Princeton University and was a postdoc fellow at Stanford University before he joined UIUC in Feb 2016. Guan’s group at UIUC focuses on bringing the interdisciplinary domain knowledge (plant ecology, hydrology, biogeochemistry, and climate science), satellite/airborne data, fieldwork, supercomputing, and machine learning together to revolutionize how we monitor and model plant-water-nutrient interactions for agricultural ecosystems, across the U.S. and globe.  More information can be found at his website:


"2017 RDD Economic Consequences Study"
Speaker: Vanessa N. Vargas - Sandia
Time: Thursday February 24, 2022 at 6pm in the Armory Room 345 and on Zoom

Abstract: It has long been recognized that the primary impact of a radiological dispersion device (RDD) incident is economic, that the disruption occasioned by dealing with a large urban area that is uninhabitable until remediation is complete can be very costly. This view is supported by the history of dealing with radiological accidents such as Chernobyl, Goiania, and Fukushima. To determine the economic impact and understand the factors affecting the impact, the DOE Office of Radiological Security, (DOE/NA-212), funded Sandia National Laboratories to conduct a rigorous study of the effects of a major RDD incident in a metropolitan area. The paper will concentrate upon detailing the method of analysis and showing the large scale of the impact. Estimating the economic impact of a terrorist attack involving a RDD is a complex process that involves unknown factors and limited historical data. We use enhanced data, methods, and recently published studies of Fukushima impacts to improve upon earlier studies and produce a better understanding of the full range of economic consequences of an RDD event.

Biography: Vanessa N. Vargas is a Principal Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) where she has led and contributed to economic analyses for over 15 years. Vanessa’s research has focused on the development and application of new methods for economic impact analysis of infrastructure system disruptions and resilience improvements, natural resource and energy economics, and policy analysis. Currently, she is involved in examining the economic impacts of radiological dispersion devices and serves as the Sandia economic resilience lead for the multi-laboratory Department of Energy’s (DOE) Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium (GMLC). In 2020 she served as the lead economist for the economic impact analysis for the four-laboratory COVID-19 response effort under the DOE Office of Science. Vanessa holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in Economics, both from the University of New Mexico.


"Does the Instability and Stability Paradox Exist Between Two Koreas?: Nuclear Ambition on the Korean Peninsula and Military Tensions Between South and North Korea"
Speaker: Jinwon Lee - UIUC
Time: Thursday February 10, 2022 at 6pm in the Armory Room 345 and on Zoom

Abstract: With origins dating back to the late 1960s, North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has evolved for the Kim family and its regime’s security strategy. The DPRK’s nuclear ambition was fully uncovered when North Korea announced its intent to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1994. After international negotiation processes such as six-party talks which were designed to resolve DPRK’s nuclear issue collapsed, North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 2003 and resumed operation of its nuclear facilities. During the last two-decades, North Korea successfully launched long-range missiles and it conducted six nuclear tests in the late 2000s and the whole 2010s. This led North Korea to become one of the nuclear armed states. How can this enlarged nuclear capability of North Korea change the patterns of disputes between two Korea? And how would South Korea react to North Korea’s nuclear weapons?

To examine patterns of militarized disputes between two Koreas, the concept of a stability and instability paradox can be used. It claims that high nuclear stability could lead to more conventional conflicts at low-level while it can prevent severe wars. Previous studies argue that when both states possess nuclear weapons, then the likelihood of war decreases but probability of crisis initiation and limited uses of force between two states is found to increase. In contrast, if a nuclear asymmetry exists between two states, there is a greater chance of militarized disputes. Based on this paradox, we can expect that Pyongyang is more likely to conduct increased numbers of lower-level provocations under the nuclear symmetry, in this case, if the US provides a strong nuclear umbrella to ROK while DPRK is less willing to tolerate risk if US nuclear deterrence for South Korea is significantly weakened.

When US nuclear deterrence is weakened, especially after the US withdrew its nuclear deployment from South Korea’s territory, the advocates of South Korean nuclear armament cast doubt on the effectiveness of the US’s nuclear umbrella and proposed the radical scenario of a nuclear-armed ROK: Seoul would need their own nuclear weapons. It is assumed that the spreading nuclear ambition on the Korean peninsula can raise a risk of proliferation in the Northeast Asia region. This shows that allies’ credibility of the nuclear umbrella is a key to prevent possible proliferation of old allies in Asia. Lastly, we will also briefly discuss recent history, including the Trump-Kim summit and dialogues in 2018-2019 and new policy on North Korea under the Biden administration as well.

Biography: Jinwon Lee ( is PhD student of Political Science, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. She served as a researcher at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (ROK) and a research associate at the Korea Institute for National Unification. Her areas of research interest include regional conflicts, nuclear weapons, nuclear proliferation, and alliance politics. She received her B.A. in political science and an M.A. in international peace and security from Korea University.


"Development of Real-World Validated Synthetic Imagery for Nuclear Non-Proliferation Computer Vision Tasks"
Speaker: Zoe N. Gastelum - Sandia
Time: Tuesday November 30, 2021 at 6pm on Zoom

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.


"Foreign Pressure and Public Opinion in Target States"
Speaker: Professor Matthew Winters - UIUC
Time: Thursday November 18, 2021 at 6pm in Armory Room 345 and Zoom

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.  


"Cognitive Science of Safeguards to Nonproliferation"
Speaker: Dr. Mallory Stites - Sandia
Time: Thursday November 4, 2021 at 6pm in Armory Room 345 and Zoom

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.


"Enhancing U.S. National Security through Scalable Water Security Solutions"
Speaker: Professor Praveen Kumar - UIUC
Time: Thursday October 21, 2021 at 6pm 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.


"The Iran Nuclear Deal? A Pleas for Nuclear Arms Control in Uncertain Times"
Speaker: Professor Matthias Grosse Perdekamp - UIUC
Time: Thursday October 14, 2021 at 6pm in Armory Room 345 and Zoom

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.