Margaret E. Kosal

Assistant Professor
Biological and Chemical Nonproliferation and Counterterrorism (Program Director) ~ Georgia Tech
Emerging Technology and Security (Program Co-Director) ~ Georgia Tech

Prof. Kosal’s research explores two interrelated areas: WMDs and emerging technologies.
On the question of understanding the impact of emerging technology on national and international security her research considers what role will nanotechnology, cognitive science, biotechnology, and converging sciences have on states, non-state actors, balance of power, deterrence postures, security doctrines, nonproliferation regimes, and programmatic choices? Focusing on potential applications of nanotechnology to chemical and biological agents, she has developed a unique set of robust technical cases in four high-level threat categories: (1) new or nano-enabled biochemical agents, (2) malfeasant exploitation of the toxicological or other deleterious health effects; (3) evasion of vaccines, innate human immunity, or other medical countermeasures; and (4) self-assembled materials and devices to molecular assemblers. Through examination of these real applications on the science (benign and defensive) and potential (notional) offensive uses of nanotechnology, she seeks to develop a model to probe the security implications of this emerging technology. The goal of the research is not to predict new specific technologies but to develop a robust analytical framework for assessing the impact of new technology on national and international security and identifying policy measures to prevent or slow proliferation of new technology – the next generation “WMD” – for malfeasant intentions.

Her other main area of research is on WMD nonproliferation, counterproliferation, counterterrorism, and consequences management. Of particular interest are questions relating to strategic national and international research on transformational approaches for development of physical and medical countermeasures to traditional and novel biological and chemical agents, risk assessment and policy response to chemical and bioterrorism, the effect of biodefense policies on the execution and management of life sciences research, the impact of non-governmental organizations and the public on international agreements, and the elimination of chemical weapons. She has investigated innovation in terrorist methods and unconventional weapons. Through model cases analysis of the threat of technological innovation by non-state actors has been considered to probe how assumptions regarding the technical capabilities of terrorists and the dissemination of technology shape policy, such as reducing the threat of improvised chemical and biological terrorism. Connected to these research efforts, she is also interested in biological deterrence theory and the role of the public and non-governmental organizations (NGO) in shaping institutions related to development and application of security-significant technology and the role of these institutions in the execution of agreements related to limiting offensive or other deleterious use of new technology.

Kosal is also Co-Director of the Program on Emerging Technology and Security and the Director of the Program on Biological and Chemical Nonproliferation and Counterterrorism within the Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy (CISTP). She is the author of Nanotechnology for Chemical and Biological Defense, which explores scenarios and strategies regarding the benefits and potential proliferation threats of nanotechnology and other emerging sciences for international security. Before joining the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Kosal was Science and Technology Advisor within the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). She also served as the first liaison to the Biological and Chemical Defense Directorate at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). She has been recognized for her leadership across the U.S. federal government, specifically for efforts to coordinate across the DoD as part of the interagency Nonproliferation and Arms Control Technology Working Group, reporting to the National Security Council; as member of the interagency federal group charged with leading the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI); and editorial board member of Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, the leading scholarly journal of terrorism studies. Kosal was nominated to and led the U.S. involvement in the NATO Nanotechnology for Defense Working Group. Her awards include the OSD Award for Excellence, 2007 UIUC Alumni Association Recent Alumni Award, the President’s Volunteer Service Award, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Defense Policy Fellow, and the Society of Porphyrins and Phthalocyanines Dissertation Research Award.


Address: Sam Nunn School of International Affairs 781 Marietta Street, NW Room 303 Atlanta, GA 30332