URI explosives expert a step ahead of terrorists

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KINGSTON, R.I. – Oct. 6, 2010 – With the world on heightened alert because of global terrorist threats and attacks, URI professor Jimmie Oxley continues to help the FBI and other agencies around the world stay one step ahead of would-be terrorists.

Just days before French police arrested 12 people in connection to an elevated terrorism threat in Europe, Oxley’s latest research was profiled by Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet. Working through a grant from Homeland Security, Oxley and URI student Patrick Bowden, who is a graduate student in chemistry, are testing various materials that could be potentially used in explosives.

“Our overall job is to decide if something is detonable or not,” Oxley said in the segment with Daily Planet, which aired on Sept. 29. “We’re trying to get ahead of the terrorists and identify some of the materials we need to deal with.”

An internationally renowned expert in explosives, energetic materials and propellants, Oxley is the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Center of Excellence in Explosives Detection, Mitigation, Response and Characterization at URI. She works with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Aviation Administration, police agencies across the country, the United Kingdom and Israel on research related to explosives and terrorism, is often a first choice of the media when explosives are involved in terrorist attacks.

With Discovery Channel on hand, Oxley explained that she, Bowden and other colleagues are building bombs with various materials to test explosive capabilities.

“There is a certain amount of anxiety when we are actually out there testing,” Oxley told Daily Planet. “This is the big day, and it has to go right. It’s probably what a bride feels on her wedding day.”