DARPA’s podcast series, "Voices from DARPA," offers a revealing and informative window on the minds of the Agency's program managers. In each episode, a program manager from one of DARPA’s six technical offices—Biological Technologies, Defense Sciences, Information Innovation, Microsystems Technology, Strategic Technology, and Tactical Technology—will discuss in informal and personal terms why they are at DARPA and what they are up to. The goal of "Voices from DARPA" is to share with listeners some of the institutional know-how, vision, process, and history that together make the “secret sauce” DARPA has been adding to the Nation’s innovation ecosystem for nearly 60 years. On another level, we at DARPA just wanted to share the pleasure we all have every day—in the elevator, in the halls, in our meeting rooms—as we learn from each other and swap ideas and strive to change what’s possible.
Episode 12: The Neobiologist
In this episode of Voices from DARPA, synthetic biologist and program manager Justin Gallivan of the Agency’s Biological Technologies Office (BTO) shares his vision of leveraging biology’s astonishing, evolution-honed abilities for making molecules and materials—think here of protein and wood—into powerful new technologies that fall into the emerging category of synthetic biology. Among the potential payoffs he discusses are growing military installations from what could be thought of as seeds and pre-toughening warfighters’ guts for the microbial challenges they face in faraway missions. Be warned: blue poop and interplanetary construction come up in this engaging discussion.
Episode 11: The Thin-Air Specialist
In this episode of Voices from DARPA, get inside the full-spectrum engineering head of Dr. Troy Olsson, a program manager since 2014 in the Agency’s Microsystems Technology Office (MTO). Listen in as Olsson describes progress toward vanishing materials that can keep sensitive electronic components out of adversaries’ hands; unmanned air vehicles that can deliver provisions and then just disappear; massive miniaturization of low-frequency antennas for underwater radio communication; and stand-alone sensors that require almost no power at all yet for years remain vigilant to sounds, radio signals, and other environmental signals of interest to warfighters. And then there’s those really far-out technologies that Olsson hopes to enjoy one day.
Episode 10: The Social Simulator
In this episode of Voices from DARPA, get to know Dr. Jonathan Pfautz, a program manager since 2015 in the DARPA's Information Innovation Office (I2O), where he epitomizes the Agency’s deliberate blindness to traditional disciplinary boundaries. With a background in computer engineering and electrical engineering, as well as in the cognitive and behavioral sciences, Pfautz is seeking to develop new techniques for massive-scale simulations of social behavior, including information sharing, as it takes form and evolves within the context of today’s astoundingly powerful information technologies and online social networking infrastructures. Pfautz also is concerned about the evolution of human-machine etiquette. And listen in on how he and his wife are so profoundly devoted to the scientific enterprise that they named their daughters after two giants in the history of science.
Episode 9: The Datamancer
Mr. Wade Shen of the Agency’s Information Innovation Office has made it his mission to improve how human beings and their computers put their respective heads and cognitive frameworks together to yield deep insight into how the world works and how information affects the way people think and act. Listen in on how Shen is enacting that mission the DARPA programs that he oversees, among them the Data Driven Discovery of Models (D3M) program, the Quantitative Crisis Response (QCR) program, and the Memex program, which is devoted to advancing search capabilities far beyond the current state of the art. Shen also muses about what it would take to build a universal translator that would enable all 7.4 billion people on the planet to overcome language barriers and talk with one another.
Episode 8: The Uncertainty Wrangler
Dr. Fariba Fahroo of the Agency’s Defense Sciences Office discusses just how pivotal mathematics can be for, in her words, “keeping our models honest.” By characterizing the uncertainties inherent in the computer models and algorithms we use to better understand complex phenomena, such as the flow of air over aircraft surfaces and through high-performance engines, as well as to design, engineer, and control today’s ever more complicated civilian and military systems, Fahroo aims to develop modeling frameworks by which these systems can be built and deployed with more confidence and insight than ever into their strengths and vulnerabilities.
Episode 7: The Geolocator
Mr. Lin Haas of the Agency’s Strategic Technology Office shares his expansive view on the current and future roles of Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) technology, whose most famous incarnation is known as the Global Positioning System (GPS). Haas reveals ambitious PNT programs that include efforts to develop an undersea system that provides omnipresent positioning capabilities across ocean basins where GPS signals do not go and to exploit environmental signals, such as the electromagnetic features of lightning, for back-up geolocation service if GPS were to become unavailable.
Episode 6: The Insectophile
Dr. Blake Bextine of the Agency’s Biological Technologies Office talks about his virus- and insect-mediated vision for protecting food crops from natural and human-wrought threats, including drought and biological warfare. With his Insect Allies program, Bextine aims to increase food security by recruiting insects to deliver viruses, which have been modified to bear protective genes, into plants where those virus-carried genes could save the plants from the threats they face. He also shares ideas about a future with more insects on the menu to feed the many more mouths that likely will be on the planet.
Episode 5: The Mind Mixer
Dr. Paul Cohen of the Agency’s Information Innovation Office talks about his efforts to develop better and more seamless ways for human intelligence and machine intelligence to combine their respective strengths into a hybrid and collaborative intelligence that can do more than either of its components.
Episode 4: The Terahertzian
Dr. Dev Palmer recounts how he turned an early interest in the vacuum tubes of his guitar amplifiers into a career as an electrical engineer, including his present role as a program manager in DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office. His mission? To push electronic and electromagnetic technology along new frontiers that could lead to more capable radar, electronic warfare, and communications systems, and even to entirely new technologies.
Episode 3: The Semiconductor Whisperer
Dr. Dan Green, a program manager in DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office, discusses the Agency’s work to develop semiconductor materials, among them gallium arsenide and now gallium nitride, that open pathways to both military and civilian technology in categories spanning from electronic warfare to radar to communications.
Episode 2: Space Sentinel
Dr. Lindsay Millard, a program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, discusses the Agency’s Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) program, a key component in the nation’s ability to detect and track space debris and other objects to determine if they will collide with orbiting satellites or impact the Earth.
Episode 1: Molecule Man
Dr. Tyler McQuade, who joined DARPA in 2013 as a program manager in the Agency’s Defense Sciences Office and became that office’s deputy director in January 2017, reveals his vision of accelerating scientists' ability to discover and make a vast variety of new molecules for medical, military, and many other applications.
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