Professor and student accepted to Homeland Security program



TUSKEGEE, Ala. (June 4, 2014) — Improvised explosive devices are some of the most pervasive dangers U.S. troops face in Afghanistan. This summer, a Tuskegee professor and student will be studying a chemical used in these devices to help the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) learn more about its properties.

“These explosives are responsible for two-thirds of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan,” said Dr. Marilyn Tourne, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry.

She and Charkyria Samone Evans, a sophomore aerospace science engineering major from Greenville, Miss., have been chosen for the DHS Summer Research Team Program for Minority Serving Institutions. 

The program provides research opportunities to increase and enhance scientific leadership at Minority Serving Institutions in areas that support the mission and goals of DHS. Evans and Tourne will begin the 10-week program on June 9 and will conduct their research at the University of Rhode Island. 

“We will be investigating the performance (kinetics/mechanism/decomposition) of chlorate/ perchlorate explosives in order to characterize their detonation/combustion profiles,” Tourne said. 

Tourne said these “low” explosives contain strong oxidizing capabilities. For industrial purposes, they are utilized among blasting agents for mining, construction and rocket propellants. However, one of the main ingredients, metal chlorates, can be used for manufacturing improvised explosive devices (IEDs). 

“Insurgents in Afghanistan can easily obtain potassium chlorate because it is used legally in Pakistan in the manufacturing of matches and textiles,” Tourne said.

Evans said the program will also help her learn more about the properties of airplane engine fuels since most explosives contain some sort of fuel as an additive. As an aspiring aerospace engineer, she said the program is an excellent chance for her and the university. 

“This research opportunity with DHS is certainly once in a lifetime!” Evans said. “I will have a chance to show the world that Tuskegee is enthused about expanding, especially in its arts and sciences and engineering departments.”

In addition to working with leading explosives experts in a DHS Center of Excellence, the program award includes a stipend, transportation expenses and a housing allowance.

Read more about the program at:

© 2014 Tuskegee University

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