January 18, 2022
Robert Stoll, a staff member at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, has received a Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate 2021 William Deso Excellence in Program Management Award for his work to address biothreat challenges. Stoll accepted the award — one of the directorate’s highest honors — during a virtual ceremony on Nov. 18.
Stoll has served the Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate since September 2018 through an Intergovernmental Personnel Act appointment. He received six letters of commendation — including one from Kathryn Coulter Mitchell, senior official performing the duties of the undersecretary of science and technology — recognizing his achievements during the assignment. He was lauded for, among other achievements, leading the strategic alignment of S&T biodefense programs, developing recommendations for effective matrix management and providing technical and programmatic leadership.
“I am honored to have had the chance to represent APL at DHS S&T,” Stoll said. “And I am very appreciative of the recognition. But, like any good manager knows, this individual achievement is a reflection of the strong team that surrounded me at S&T. None of this would have happened without the support of APL. I am indebted to all who helped make this journey possible.”
Success hasn’t come easy for Stoll. In January 2017, his career path was diverted, somewhat, when his son ate an off-the-shelf nut butter spread that was contaminated with E. coli and subsequently developed a life-threatening foodborne illness that required around-the-clock care and a lengthy hospital stay. Determined to prioritize his son’s care, Stoll took a leave of absence that was followed by part-time work at the Lab.
Rather than dampening his enthusiasm for his work, Stoll said he saw his son’s hospitalization as an opportunity to prevent others from going through a similar experience — a mindset that ultimately led him to take the assignment at DHS.
“My son’s hospitalization reignited my passion for safety and security,” said Stoll. “I had already been working in that space and had some contacts at the hospital, and then he got sick. When I returned to work, I decided to go further upstream and learn more about safety and defense in the food supply chain. That was a big motivator to take this assignment.”
Shortly after he returned to work at APL full time in 2018, Stoll accepted the assignment with DHS S&T. In this position, he built a strong team across the S&T organization, which helped him to revitalize SenseNet, an experimental system designed to provide continuous air monitoring to rapidly and reliably detect an indoor airborne biological agent, which can then trigger an automated response within a building to control the spread of a detected threat.
“Bob’s success with the SenseNet program was really impressive,” said Andy Oak, APL’s mission area executive for Homeland Protection. “His multi-organizational team faced a daunting schedule, but Bob expertly guided them to a successful test result. The fact that he has been awarded the William Deso Excellence in Program Management Award speaks both to the challenges Bob overcame as well as the importance of the program to DHS.”
Stoll returned to APL at the end of December. He plans to continue his work in health care and chemical and biological defense. Meanwhile, his son continues to recover from his illness and remains on the kidney transplant list. Because of these personal constraints, Stoll is thankful for the flexibility at APL, which lets him balance his commitment to his family as well as his role at the Lab.
“My family and I are very grateful to count the APL community as part of our support system,” said Stoll. “The generosity of APL colleagues has made it possible for us to be where we are today, together and always moving forward.”
Media contact: Amanda Zrebiec, 240-592-2794, Amanda.Zrebiec@jhuapl.edu
The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit www.jhuapl.edu.