October 7, 2005
Colloquium Speaker: John C. Sommerer
John C. Sommerer is Chief Technology Officer for APL, and effective October 1, 2005 its new Director for Science & Technology. He chairs APL's Science and Technology Council, which is responsible for insuring that APL has the technology and capabilities required to meet its mission. Dr. Sommerer oversees APL's overall internal research and development program; its participation in the educational programs of the University's Whiting School of Engineering; and its Office of Technology Transfer. For the previous nine years, he headed the Milton S. Eisenhower Research and Technology Development Center. Dr. Sommerer led the development in 1998 of APL's strategic plan for its core business areas, which identified missile defense, information operations, and countering weapons of mass destruction as priority new business opportunities. He is also active in the educational programs of the University as an adjunct faculty member in the applied physics, applied mathematics, and technical management programs. He has made internationally recognized scientific contributions, both theoretical and experimental, to the fields of nonlinear dynamics and complex systems. He has published over 50 papers and book chapters, and has had his personal research covered as news in Nature, Scientific American, Science News, The New Scientist, and other publications; his research has been featured on the covers of both Science and Nature. Dr. Sommerer has B.S. (summa cum laude) and M.S. (with honors) degrees in systems science and mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis, an M.S. (with honors) in applied physics from Hopkins, and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Maryland. Dr. Sommerer was named Maryland's Distinguished Young Scientist in 1994. He has served on numerous advisory bodies for the US Government, and is currently Vice Chair of the Naval Research Advisory Committee, reporting to the Secretary of the Navy. He has also been active in local economic development, serving as a Director of the James Rouse Entrepreneurial Fund and as an Advisor to the Howard County, Maryland new business incubator, NeoTech.
Since the establishment of the Federal R&D infrastructure in WWII, the Government's S&T investment strategy has been affected by (sometimes implicit) models of how research drives or enables innovation, new technology, and new systems. One goal of this talk will be to examine R&D models starting with Vannevar Bush's "Endless Frontier" and moving to the more recent, and probably more probative "quadrant model." A second goal of the presentation will be to review what econometric studies have shown about the importance of research to a problem-solving organization like APL, as well as the somewhat counterintuitive reasons for that importance.