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Washington State University
WSU Research National Security

National security

Fundamental research to protect America

The challenge

The 2015 U.S. National Security Strategy presents a vision for protecting U.S. interests in an insecure world. Notable elements include preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, strengthening America’s critical infrastructure (energy systems, roads, bridges, water systems, and more), and reducing hunger. Also included is the need to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to biological threats through the Global Health Security Agenda.

WSU’s role in the solution

Working across disciplines, WSU scholars conduct fundamental research that specifically addresses national security challenges.

Preserving strategic stability

WSU hosts the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Institute for Shock Physics, one of the world’s premier university laboratories for the study of matter at extreme conditions. In addition, scientists in WSU’s Nuclear Radiation Center collaborate with U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories.

Strengthening America’s Infrastructure

WSU’s Institute for Sustainable Design pioneers changes to the design and construction of the built environment. The Composite Materials and Engineering Center develops new building materials from a range of recycled and virgin resources.

Reducing hunger

WSU researchers across many disciplines take aim at the tragedy of world hunger, the number one risk to health worldwide.1 For example, the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources seeks ways to make food production sustainable in the face of climate change.

Addressing biological threats

Scientists in WSU’s Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health work to control the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance worldwide. They also develop novel methods to predict and control life-threatening infectious diseases that originate in animals. They create vaccines to control major diseases in livestock that cripple economic progress in developing nations.

1. World Food Programme

Within this Grand Challenge, scholars address several research themes, touching on issues like these:

Matter at extreme conditions

Its application to fundamental science and support of U.S. nuclear security

  • Fundamental material properties at extremes of temperature and pressure
  • Computational materials science
  • Advancing nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear safeguard goals through basic research

More about matter at extreme conditions

  • A photo of Yogendra Gupta talking to students in a lab Research with impact

    Scientists develop lighter weight body armor to protect U.S. soldiers

    How can body armor for U.S. soldiers be made lighter, yet still provide effective protection? For the answer, the U.S. Army turned to Yogendra Gupta, director of WSU’s Institute for Shock Physics.

    The WSU shock physics effort has a more than 55-year history of research innovation. Professor Gupta’s research explores the dynamic response of materials subjected to extreme conditions of pressure and temperature, and at very short time scales. Research at the Institute is often carried out in partnership with scientists at U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) and Department of … » More …

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Nuclear nonproliferation

Advancing goals and safeguards through basic research

  • Actinide science, which deals with radioactive elements
  • Radioanalytical methods for nuclear forensics and treaty verification

More about nuclear nonproliferation

  • waste barrels Improving security for storage of dangerous materials

    New technology safeguards radioactive weapons and waste

    Safe storage of nuclear weapons and waste is critical for national security and environmental health. Specialized seals are used to prevent tampering.

    WSU researcher Hergen Eilers has developed a seal technology that adds a layer of security beyond what’s found in existing seals. His technology also allows for simple visual inspection to verify that a storage site is secure.

    How the seal works

    Dr. Eilers’ seals are composed of nano-particles embedded in a polymer. He uses a wavefront-modulated laser, which can control scattered light. When the laser interacts with the seal, the light is scattered by the particles. … » More …

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  • A photo of an aerial view of a nuclear plant room with three people inside Educating tomorrow’s nuclear forensics experts and reactor operators

    Students gain unique, hands-on experience at the WSU Nuclear Radiation Center

    Since the close of World War II, America has sought to reduce the threat of nuclear war. Yet, some 70 years later, a growing number of nations possess nuclear weapons. Global stability remains fragile.

    In the interest of national security, Washington State University trains the next generation of nuclear forensic and radiochemistry experts. Don Wall directs WSU’s Nuclear Radiation Center, which offers students rare learning opportunities.

    The crown jewel of the center’s array of research equipment is a 1 MW TRIGA nuclear research reactor. WSU is one of a handful of sites in … » More …

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Advancement of developing countries

Community-based approach to development of agriculture and education to improve quality of life

  • Agricultural extension projects
  • Reforestation
  • Expanded educational opportunities and attainment
  • Sustainable rural enterprises and livelihoods
  • Economic, behavioral, social, and cultural influencers

More about advancement of developing countries

Global health security

Disease detection, prevention, and response in developing areas

  • Disease surveillance, monitoring, and associated computational modeling
  • Innovative solutions to infectious disease
  • Health care access in rural and underserved areas
  • Economic, behavioral, social, and cultural influencers of health and economic security

More about global health security

  • A closeup of a pregnant woman Research worldwide to protect America

    Preventing spread of disease in Kenya

    In Kenya, 42 percent1 of the population falls below the poverty line. Lack of health care among the impoverished increases the risk of hard-to-control disease outbreaks. Understanding and preventing infectious disease threats among vulnerable populations in rural and urban settings is important to global health security.

    Kariuki Njenga addresses these challenges using a “One Health” approach, which recognizes that human health is connected to the health of animals and the environment. With a $3.4 million, five-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Njenga conducts investigations that aim to combat major health challenges in Kenya, … » More …

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  • A closeup of a researcher talking to a man Reducing the threat of rabies in Africa

    Experts seek ways to confer protection in nations with scant medical resources

    Canine rabies has been eliminated in developed countries but remains a threat to half the world, including the African nation of Tanzania. The bite from a rabid dog is often deadly to humans living in Africa and Asia, where there is poor access to expensive post-exposure vaccinations.  According to estimates by the World Health Organization, rabies takes the lives of nearly 60,000 people each year, including approximately 1,500 in Tanzania. Almost half of those are children under the age of 15.

    The obvious solution is to vaccinate dogs against the disease, but it … » More …

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WSU’s collaboration with leading scientists accelerates innovation that protects America from domestic and global threats. Key partners include the following:


Affiliated institutes, centers, and programs

Center for Environmental Research, Education, and Outreach  (CEREO)

Academic and industry leaders applying innovative technologies and management tools to the challenges of global climate change and environmental sustainability

Center for Materials Research

Finding interdisciplinary answers to advanced materials science problems

Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources

Conducts research and provides education on critical issues facing agriculture, such as climate change, energy and water security, and ways to make agricultural production systems more sustainable

Composite Materials & Engineering Center

Develops new building materials from recycled and virgin resources, as well as innovative structural systems

Institute for Shock Physics

Examining and understanding physical and chemical changes in solids and liquids under very rapid and large compressions

Institute for Shock Physics Applied Sciences Laboratory

Focuses on solving problems for industry and government agencies in areas that include energy, national security, advanced materials, and sensors applications

Institute for Sustainable Design

Uniting faculty, students, design professionals, manufacturers, and suppliers to solve societal problems of sustainability

International Research and Agricultural Development Program

Raising the quality of life in developing countries through agricultural and educational projects that utilize local talent and cultural practices

Nuclear Radiation Center

The only research reactor in the state of Washington

Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health

Experts in infectious disease research whose extensive global health outreach safeguards animal health (with an emphasis on livestock), protects food supplies, creates more economically secure families and communities, and advances public health across continents

Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service

Supporting public affairs education, engaging students in public service, and supporting academic research on public policy and democratic institutions

Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (WADDL)

A full-service diagnostic reference facility that safeguards the health of livestock, pets, poultry, and fish in the Pacific Northwest and protects the public from zoonotic diseases, or animal diseases that can infect humans

Further information

Find out more about the University’s research pertaining to national security.

National Security (pdf)