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Michael B. Silevitch

Robert D. Black Professor, COE Distinguished Professor,  Electrical and Computer Engineering
Affiliated Faculty,  Civil and Environmental Engineering
Director,  CenSSIS
Director,  ALERT


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Research Focus

Subsurface sensing and imaging systems, detection of explosives-related anomalies, engineered system development and engineering leadership


Michael B. Silevitch received the BSEE, MSEE, and PhD from Northeastern University in 1965, 1966, and 1971, respectively. He joined the faculty of Northeastern in 1972, and was appointed to the Robert D. Black Endowed Chair in Engineering at Northeastern in 2003, the same year that he was elected an IEEE Fellow for leadership in advanced subsurface sensing and imaging techniques. A College of Engineering distinguished professor with dual appointments in Electrical and Computer Engineering as well as Civil and Environmental Engineering, Silevitch is co-director of Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT), a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence; director of the Bernard M. Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems (Gordon-CenSSIS), a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center; and research translation leader of the Puerto Rico Testsite to Explore Contamination Threats (PROTECT) program, funded through the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Previously, Dr. Silevitch directed the Center for Electromagnetics Research, an NSF Industry-University Center, and the Gordon Engineering Leadership Program, a graduate program that provides an innovative model for training engineering leaders.

Dr. Silevitch has also contributed his efforts toward improving the education of young scientists and engineers. From 1987-1996, he served as the director of the Center for the Enhancement of Science and Mathematics Education (CESAME), funded by grants from NSF and the Noyce Foundation, which developed a systematic mechanism to implement a statewide network of exemplary K-12 mathematics and science curricula, and as principal investigator for IMPACT, a $5 million grant from NSF that resulted in the implementation of exemplary curricula in 500 school districts throughout the New England region. He also served as one of the Co-PIs on the $20 Million NSF-funded 10 year (1990-2000) Massachusetts Statewide Systemic Initiative Project, PALMS (Partnerships Advancing the Learning of Mathematics and Science). The PI of PALMS was the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education.

Dr. Silevitch’s other accomplishments include leading a university-industry team on a $4.7M, 2-year DHS-funded effort to demonstrate new detectors and imaging algorithms for a nuclear material detection tool, ASHERD, enabling rapid inspection of cargo containers and vehicles. After successful testing, Silevitch provided guidance for a large DHS industrial contract on an Advanced Spectroscopic Portal (ASP), a $400M production program led by Raytheon that was based on the ASHERD system. ASP units are presently in use in the NY Container Terminal. In Dr. Silevitch’s professional area of expertise, space plasma physics, he served as principal investigator for multiple Air Force-funded projects, focusing on problems such as the structure of the earth’s radiation belts, the formation of the aurora borealis and the nature of wave-particle interaction in space plasma.

Dr. Silevitch has authored over 65 publications and 90 presented papers spanning several research disciplines including collaborations with scientists from the United States, France, Sweden, Finland and Austria.


Obtained his BSEE, MSEE, and PhD from Northeastern University in 1965, 1966, and 1971.

Honors & Awards

Life Fellow, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Research Overview

Subsurface sensing and imaging systems, detection of explosives-related anomalies, engineered system development and engineering leadership

Selected Research Projects

  • ALERT: Awareness and Localization of Explosives Related Threats, A Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence. ALERT seeks to conduct transformational research, technology and educational development for effective characterization, detection, mitigation and response to the explosives-related threats facing the country and the world
    • – Director and Principal Investigator, Department of Homeland Security
  • CenSSIS: Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems, Gordon-CenSSIS, a graduated NSF Engineering Research Center, was created to develop new technologies to detect hidden objects, and to use those technologies to meet real-world subsurface challenges in areas as diverse as noninvasive breast cancer detection and underground pollution assessment
    • – Director and Principal Investigator, National Science Foundation
  • Research and Development of Reconstruction Advances in CT Based Object Detection Systems
    • – Principal Investigator, Department of Homeland Security
abstract image with plane, alarm, explosive

Mar 12, 2020

Northeastern Spearheading Advances in Travel Safety

Northeastern’s ALERT (Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats) is one of nine Department of Homeland (DHS) Security Centers of Excellence (COEs) located across the country. A multi-university center, ALERT conducts research and development for effective responses to explosives-related threats. ALERT is funded by a core grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate that equates to roughly $3.6 million a year. In addition to the Center’s ongoing core research award, DHS also provides each COE with an ability to obtain task order contracts targeted to develop specific security technologies and methods.


Sep 04, 2019

Emily Belk Wins DHS COE Summit Grand Challenge Competition

Computer Engineering and Computer Science BS student, Emily Belk was part of the winning team at the 2019 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Centers of Excellence (COE) Summit Grand Challenge Student Competition held on July 31st at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia.


May 21, 2018

Next Generation Checkpoints

Transportation Security Administration Administrator David Pekoske toured the Center for Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) on Friday to see if the technology Northeastern is working on can be implemented at security checkpoints. The nation’s top airport security official Friday toured a Northeastern center that develops technology aimed at ensuring the safety of airline […]


Mar 01, 2018

Airport Security Screening Goes to School

ECE Professor Michael Silevitch was featured in the Wall Street Journal Article “Airport Security Screening Goes to School” for his research in airport security during checkpoints.

Jun 01, 2016

Influencing Students for Several Decades

Professors Michael Silevitch (ECE) and John Cipolla (MIE) have worked at Northeastern University training thousands of students for over four decades and have setup funds to push these students to reach their highest potentials. Source: Northeastern Magazine These senior engineering professors became friends and research collaborators soon after joining the faculty in 1971. Celebrating careers […]

Feb 25, 2016

Associated Press features ALERT Researcher’s work

ECE Professor & ALERT Director Michael Silevitch was quoted in a Associated Press article about URI professor Otto Gregory's work on explosive detectors.

Oct 22, 2015

Silevitch and Beaty Awarded $1.2M DHS Grant

ECE Prof. Michael Silevitch and ALERT’s John Beaty were awarded a $1.2M two year Task Order contract from the DHS in collaboration with Stephen P. Beaudoin of Purdue University to systematize the processes associated with sampling of trace explosives using swipes for security screening equipment.

Sep 14, 2015

Silevitch, Rappaport, Martinez win $1.2M DHS award

ECE Profs. Michael Silevitch, Carey Rappaport, and Jose Martinez (also with MIE) and ALERT’s John Beaty were awarded $1.2M two-year Task Order DHS contract to transition research from ALERT’s Advanced Imaging Technology Laboratory into technology suitable for commercialization.

Apr 13, 2015

Gordon Engineering Leadership Program presented with Prestigious Award

Gordon Engineering Leadership Program Director and Professor Simon Pitts and former Director Michael Silevitch were presented with the 2015 National Academy of Engineering Bernard M Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education.


Jan 08, 2015

Gordon Engineering Leadership directors honored by NAE

Michael B. Silevitch and Simon Pitts have been recognized by the National Academy of Engineering for their contributions toward developing effective engineering leaders with one of the top NAE annual prizes.


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