Public Release:  Mathematics plays critical role in war against terror

RIT hosts free conference on counterterrorism, Sept. 20-22

Rochester Institute of Technology

A terrorist cell quietly forms and grows in a pattern--crossing countries, oceans, hemispheres. Surprising to many, a "weapon" just as quiet--mathematics--can connect the dots and reveal the organizational pattern of something this sinister.

Approximately 40 mathematicians and interdisciplinary scholars from Denmark, Germany, England, Canada and the United States will convene at the Rochester Institute of Technology Sept. 20-22 to discuss the role mathematics and computational techniques play in analyzing terrorist activity. The fourth Conference on Mathematical Methods in Counterterrorism, hosted by RIT's School of Mathematical Sciences, will highlight the use of mathematical techniques such as graph-, lattice- and game theory to mine data for patterns and potential solutions to:

  • Strategies for disrupting terrorist cells
  • Border penetration and security
  • Terrorist cell formation and growth
  • Terrorism deterrence strategies
  • Information security
  • Emergency response and planning

"I really think that people need to realize how important math will be in the war against terror," says Bernard Brooks, one of the conference coordinators and an assistant head of research programs in RIT's School of Mathematical Sciences. "Chemistry was the science for World War I. Physics was the science for World War II. Now, math will play a critical role in the war against terror."

Addressing that topic, keynote speaker Gordon Woo, a catastrophe risk consultant for Risk Management Solutions, will discuss mathematical modeling for terrorism and environmental damages at 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, in RIT's Student Alumni Union. Woo has extensive experience in quantitative risk assessment at nuclear, chemical, petroleum and military installations.

Also at the conference, Brooks and fellow coordinators Anthony Harkin and Jonathan Farley will announce the launch of the Consortium for Mathematical Methods in Counterterrorism, a multi-university initiative. The consortium will serve as a clearinghouse of information, a source for expert contacts and, Brooks hopes, a place for policymakers to pose real-world problems with mathematical solutions.

All conference events will take place in RIT's Student Alumni Union from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Informative talks will provide background about the various subjects, current state of research and areas of future study. The event is free and open to the public. For more details, or to register online, visit


Rochester Institute of Technology is internationally recognized for academic leadership in computing, engineering, imaging technology, and fine and applied arts, in addition to unparalleled support services for students with hearing loss. More than 15,500 full- and part-time students are enrolled in RIT's 340 career-oriented and professional programs, and its cooperative education program is one of the oldest and largest in the nation.

For nearly two decades, U.S. News & World Report has ranked RIT among the nation's leading comprehensive universities. The Princeton Review features RIT in its 2007 Best 361 Colleges rankings and named the university one of America's "Most Wired Campuses." RIT is also featured in Barron's Best Buys in Education.

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