Dr. Craig Gruber Leads State-of-the-Art Forensics Study at UK Symposium

The past three years have been a blur for Craig Gruber, PhD — ever since he was named director of the College’s then-new Master of Arts in Homeland Security program. That’s what happens when you’re in charge of a program that’s as young, wide-ranging, and rapidly evolving as the discipline of homeland security. 

Now Gruber is taking his leadership role onto the international stage as co-chair of a symposium, “Forensics in Defence and Security,” being held September 14 and 15 at Cranfield University in Shrivenham, Oxfordshire, England.

Hosted by the Defence Academy of the UK, the event is organized and run on behalf of the Cranfield Forensics Institute. Last year’s event attracted more than 200 attendees from the US, Australia, and Europe, including representatives from organizations such as the FBI, Department of Defense, and the UK Home Office and Ministry of Defense, as well as several law enforcement agencies.

“I spoke at the conference last year, and that’s how I got involved,” said Gruber. “The conference organizer, Steve Johnson of Cranfield University, maintained contact with me and presented the opportunity of putting the event together.”

The scope of the event Johnson and Gruber have organized speaks to the diversity of topics under the homeland security umbrella and the pace of change in the field.

“We’re looking at things such as open-source intelligence, digital forensics, explosive investigation, illicit drug profiling, small unmanned aerial systems in forensic investigations, and getting the most out of your intelligence analysis, just to name a few,” said Gruber.

The conference will seek to establish the state of the art and the research challenges in each of these fields, as well as looking at the overlaps between them. For Gruber, the event represents a chance to share new techniques and evolving best practices among global colleagues.

“As an international conference, we’d like to have as many opportunities as possible for researchers and practitioners from around the world to be put in the same room and to present and then discuss our mutual international security concerns.” he noted.

Gruber’s participation will also benefit his students at Northeastern.

“One of the great things about this is that I’ll be able to bring back the presentations and papers and give them to my faculty,” said Gruber. “That will allow them to experience the latest and greatest of what’s taking place in research internationally so they can incorporate it into their courses. 

Gruber, who previously taught psychology in the College of Science, was tapped to lead the Master of Arts in Homeland Security program due to his background in security. He has served at the Office of Naval Intelligence and Joint Intelligence Center Central Command as an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves.

“The distinguishing feature of our program is that we’re looking at individuals who are interested in being the operators—doing the business of the homeland security enterprise,” Gruber explained. “We have a great stable of folks who are working professionals in both the public and private sectors, and we really thrive on that scholar/practitioner model. 

For those scholar/practitioners, there’s always something new to learn.

“That continual evolution in what security entails is what makes it so exciting,” said Gruber. “Our curriculum is never the same. We’re never teaching the same course twice, because of the many different changes that take place. 

The UK symposium will add to the growing body of knowledge, according to Gruber.

“We have a program that reflects the state of the art in security, and one that will develop unique skillsets for the people involved.”