Contact: Robert Duncan, 277-4507 or
Michael Padilla, 277-1816

Feb. 28, 2001

UNM hosts Biological Threat Reduction Workshop

The University of New Mexico’s Center for Advanced Studies (CAS) is hosting a Workshop on Unified Science and Technology for Biological Threat Reduction on March 16 and 17 at Regener Hall on the UNM campus.

Robert Duncan, UNM physics & astronomy professor and visiting associate professor in physics at Caltech (California Institute of Technology), said the workshop will address three questions: How will we know if we are under attack? What clues, if any, exist within our complex communications infrastructure that such an attack will occur, or has occurred? and; What emerging technologies exist that are relevant to our detection and response efforts?

“The workshop is extremely timely,” Duncan said. “This national security concern must be addressed urgently by multi-disciplinary teams of strategists, physicians, scientists and engineers. This major biological threat requires new sensors and systems development that push science and technology well beyond our current limits. It is the role of the University to provide an environment for original thought on these cross-disciplinary advanced studies.”

Brig. General (select) Annette Sobel, M.D., of the National Guard Bureau and Sandia National Laboratories, one of the nation’s leading scientists active in this field of research, will serve as the Program Chair of the Workshop. A panel of invited guest speakers will address these questions, a number of poster presentations will be provided, and there will be open discussions.

The workshop will showcase a multi-disciplinary collaboration aimed at detecting, identifying, and responding to potential dangers posed by biohazards. The workshop will bring together national security strategists, faculty from leading science and engineering departments at various universities, and staff from national laboratories and industrial scientists working on new sensor technologies, the underlying science, and their system integration. Emphasis will be placed on not only the identification of novel new approaches to this critical problem, but also on analytical system evaluations which determine sensitivity and specificity requirements on emerging sensors.

“Not every possible biological attack will be aimed at humans directly,” Duncan said. “For example, terrorists supporting a rouge nation under international economic sanctions could launch a fungal attack against our crops, potentially devastating our economy. This and many other possible attack scenarios would not necessarily result in an immediate armed response, since slow biological attacks may be difficult to differentiate from a natural outbreak. New sensors and information systems currently under development will provide critical early detection and response.”

Paper presentations are highly encouraged, and information on providing abstracts is located at

The workshop is cosponsored by Sandia National Laboratories.

Individuals with disabilities who will need auxiliary assistance in order to participate should contact the CAS office at (505) 277-8602.


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