6/10/2016 Peter Durantine

Simic '15 Makes Presentation to NATO and Ukrainian Leaders

A Franklin & Marshall College alumna took the place of a professor who was unable to attend a recent security conference in Kiev that highlighted NATO-Ukraine cooperation on demining efforts in the war-ridden country.

As a research assistant to Visiting Professor of Geosciences Tim Bechtel, among the lead researchers on a NATO-backed project to remove land mines from the world's former war zones, Nina Simic '15 traveled to the capital of Ukraine in late May. 

"She represented me, F&M and the U.S.," Bechtel said. 

  • Simic at the conference exhibit in Kiev with a NATO official, members of the research team, and the demining prototype. Simic at the conference exhibit in Kiev with a NATO official, members of the research team, and the demining prototype. Image Credit: Office of Communications

The Kiev conference was rescheduled after the terrorist bombings earlier this year in Brussels. That city is home to NATO headquarters, which is located a short distance from the sites of those attacks. Bechtel could not attend the rescheduled meeting so Simic volunteered.

"Nina had discussed it with her parents, and they wanted her to go because of the importance of the project to them," Bechtel said. "They escaped Bosnia during the war there. Her father quite literally made his way through minefields to get out."

The 1992-1995 Bosnian War, which occurred at the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, cost the lives of an estimated 38,000 civilians and 57,000 soldiers. The war left an estimated 2 million land mines that continue to kill and maim civilians.   

"I took the risk to travel to a war-ridden country because this research is of utmost importance regarding the future of demining and safety for civilians not only in Ukraine, but over the entire globe," said Simic, who spent four days in country.

To remove the estimated 110 million land mines buried in 108 countries, Bechtel is working with an international research team on a radar-mounted vehicle that would allow civilians to safely remove mines.

At NATO's Science for Peace and Security Conference, Simic and the other members of group presented a poster and demonstrated a prototype of the demining radar they are developing to a group of Ukrainian and NATO academic and science advisors.

"The prototype we presented with our Ukrainian and Italian colleagues will, when finished, have the ability to lower the necessity for direct interaction between humans and land mines in the process of demining," Simic said. "They were very impressed by our preliminary research and the prototype, and our presentation to them was then portrayed on Ukrainian news for that week."

Simic is now in graduate school for environmental health and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania.

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