Title: Chemistry Professor, Co-director of the Center of Excellence in Explosives Detection, Mitigation and Response
Expertise: Explosives; the chemistry of thermal decomposition of highly energetic materials
The big bang theory on campus centers around the work of internationally renowned explosives expert and URI chemistry professor Jimmie Oxley and her team of students and researchers.
Professor Oxley is co-director of URI’s Center of Excellence in Explosives, Detection, Mitigation, and Response, largely supported by the Department of Homeland Security, and thanks to her, you’ll find the most diverse explosives curriculum in the country right here at URI. In fact, many of Professor Oxley’s graduates advance to jobs on the front lines in the fight against criminals and terrorists.
But that’s no surprise to anyone familiar with her work. Scientists, law enforcement, and military personnel around the world use a database she developed to assist them in combating explosives-based terrorism. She was sought after by bomb squads following the 2005 London bombings, called upon to collaborate with the FBI on simulations of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and has worked with British officials to examine large fertilizer bombs. She works with the United Kingdom and Israel on research related to explosives and terrorism and is often a first choice for media when explosives are involved in terrorist attacks. And, a private manufacturer has been working with Professor Oxley and her team to determine if a device could detect the components of a bomb hidden in underwear (it could). Projects like these command the attention of businesses, governments, researchers and companies worldwide.
Oxley and her team have been working with Transit authority police in New York to develop training aids to help dogs detect peroxide-based explosives. Because peroxide is hazardous and dangerous to transport, it is impossible to train dogs with it. So Oxley’s team has developed aids that mimic the smell of peroxide, but pose no explosion hazard.
“URI and Jimmie Oxley have given us a clear advantage in fighting terrorism in New York,” said Lt. John Kerwick, tactical commander of the K-9 Unit of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Department last year. “When we came up here after the London (transit bombings in 2005), we were one of the few agencies to have access to this type of expertise. We just rave about Jimmie.”
Watch the September 29, 2010 Discovery Channel Daily Planet segment on how Oxley and her team test the explosiveness of suspect materials.
Read the September 7, 2012 Popular Science article: “The Labs That Go Boom: The DHS Center of Excellence Destroys IEDs”
Read our most recent news release: “In heat of summer, Jimmie Oxley’s research goes to dogs, devices, undies”
Wall Street Journal article “A Primer in PETN” after the Christmas day bombing attempt in Detroit
New York Times article “Explosive on Flight 253 Is Among Most Powerful”
Time article “Why It’s Not Easy to Detonate a Bomb on Board”