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  • New DSO Director--Scientist, Engineer and Physician--Brings Unique Perspective to Agency

    September 07, 2011

    Acceptance of risk cited as key to success 

    Defense Sciences Office (DSO) programs bridge the gap from fundamental science to applications by identifying and pursuing some of the most promising ideas within the science and engineering research communities and transforming these ideas into new Department of Defense capabilities. It makes sense then that its new director would have a background steeped in engineering yet equally rooted in biological sciences and fundamental research.

    Dr. Jay Schnitzer, who joined DARPA this week as director, DSO, has a background that is a composite of experience in basic research, medicine, surgery, trauma, burns, medical devices and international healthcare work. A Doctor of Philosophy in chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Medical Doctor from Harvard Medical School give Schnitzer a unique perspective in his work.

    "We are pleased to have Dr. Schnitzer on the DARPA technogeek team,” said DARPA Director, Regina E. Dugan. His entire career is characterized by work at the intersection of basic science and application—DARPA’s power lane. He knows Pasteur’s quadrant, because he’s lived it. He’s got the experience, the skill and the nerve to help DARPA fulfill its mission."

    “I think my engineering and quantitative science training have combined to shape my research over the years. It has always been a part of how I work,” said Schnitzer. This approach to problem solving will assist Schnitzer as he watches over DSO’s programs, which cover a range of fields from physical science to materials to biology to mathematics.

    DARPA’s mission to create and prevent strategic surprise requires agile, rapid innovation so that technologies may be brought to bear quickly to serve the warfighter. Schnitzer believes his medical background will help provide for agile yet informed decisions. “Being comfortable making decisions when data is sparse because it hasn’t been done before is critical to big innovation. It helps if you come from a background where you’re comfortable thinking in those terms,” he said.

    This risk equation thrives at DARPA. According to Schnitzer, “DARPA is the leading agency perhaps in the entire Federal Government in terms of doing really, truly advanced and revolutionary science. I think that having an appropriate risk appetite is really crucial to maintaining that position within the federal government.”

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