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 62: The Model (& Simulation) Researcher
14:47For this episode of the Voices from DARPA podcast, we talk with new DARPA program manager, Dr. Alvaro Velasquez, a self-described “researcher at heart.” His current research interests are at the intersection of formal language theory and machine learning for sequential decision-making.Velasquez discusses his path to DARPA and how it serendipitously led him to inheriting management of a new AI program called Assured Neuro Symbolic Learning and Reasoning (ANSR). He also describes his idea for his next project, which will look at neuro symbolic knowledge transfer to accelerate the adoption of machine learning outcomes within modeling and simulation for military systems.YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-vK1WAJ0x8iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/voices-from-darpa/id1163190520
Episode 61: Manta Ray - Unleashing Robotic Undersea Endurance
13:13DARPA’s Manta Ray program seeks to demonstrate innovative technologies allowing payload-capable autonomous unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) to operate on long-duration, long-range missions in ocean environments without the need for on-site human logistics support or maintenance. Such UUVs would offer the potential for persistent operations in forward environments, allowing host vessels increased freedom of operational flexibility while providing traditional servicing ports with relief of workload. They could also enhance our understanding of the oceans. In this podcast, we talk with Manta Ray Program Manager Kyle Woerner and Sandia National Laboratory engineer Kelley Ruehl who is advising on energy harvesting aspects of the program.
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Episode 60: The Neuroethicist
14:40For this episode of the Voices from DARPA podcast, we spoke with Dr. Joeanna Arthur who joined DARPA in August 2022 as a program manager, or PM, in the Biological Technologies Office. Her research interests include operational neuroscience, human performance optimization and predictive analytics, leveraging advances in cognitive and behavioral science.We asked Dr. Arthur to provide her perspective as a new PM, what sparked her interest in the field of neuroscience, and what she hopes to accomplish in her limited tenure.
Episode 59: DARPA Forward
18:02For this episode of the Voices from DARPA podcast, we sat down with DARPA Director, Dr. Stefanie Tompkins, to discuss the agency’s upcoming DARPA Forward regional event series. Held on leading research and development campuses throughout the United States and open to all, these conferences will connect DARPA leaders with new communities of talent and partnerships.We also speak with Dr. Max Shulaker from MIT, who had an early-career opportunity to join the DARPA innovation ecosystem, and Lucia White, graduate student at the University of Wisconsin and member of the US Space Force, who will participate in DARPA Forward as a 2022 DARPA Riser.For more information, visit forward.darpa.mil
Episode 58: The Cryptoprivacist
17:34In this episode of the Voices from DARPA podcast, we explore the portfolio of cryptography expert, privacy advocate, and DARPA program manager, Dr. Joshua Baron. Baron details the possibilities – and potential pitfalls – of technologies such as zero knowledge proofs and blockchains. He also provides a sneak peek into new research that will preserve one’s privacy by rapidly making complex computations on a mobile device.“I'm most interested in the national security community's relationship with the world,” said Baron. “When I talk about privacy issues, what we address [at DARPA] certainly impacts the Department of Defense community but also the larger American and even global communities.”
Episode 57: Unmasking Misinformation and Manipulation
20:14In this episode of the Voices from DARPA podcast, we will discuss DARPA’s Influence Campaign Awareness and Sensemaking (INCAS) program. Adversaries exploit misinformation and true information through compelling narratives propagated on social media and online content. INCAS seeks new tools to help analysts quickly identify geopolitical influence campaigns amidst today’s noisy information environment and find better ways to determine the impacts of such propaganda.You’ll hear from leaders of teams working on aspects of the INCAS program – from identifying narratives using lessons from the entertainment industry to exploring how different people react to the same messages – in addition to INCAS Program Manager Brian Kettler. As Kettler says: “Propaganda is not new, but the speed and scale of it is new. The information ecosystem is rapidly evolving. Our adversaries are getting better all the time.”
Episode 56: The Future of Food - Meals from Microbes
24:24Did you know that there’s more energy in the packaging of an MRE than what’s in the food? In this episode of the Voices from DARPA podcast, we’re discussing “The Future of Food: Meals from Microbes.”First, we will hear from Dr. Molly Jahn, program manager for the Cornucopia program, which seeks to enable food production on-demand and on-site.Next, we’ll speak with Dr. Blake Bextine, who manages the ReSource program, and Dr. Stephen Techtmann from Michigan Technological University, who serves as a program performer on their unique approaches to this daunting problem. That program aims to turn military waste – including plastics - into oils, lubricants, and food.iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/voices-from-darpa/id1163190520Resources:FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2021. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021. Transforming food systems for food security, improved nutrition and affordable healthy diets for all. Rome, https://cdn.who.int/media/docs/default-source/nutritionlibrary/publications/state-food-security-nutrition-2021-en.pdf?sfvrsn=84e0ae0c_12&download=true
Episode 55: Sensorized Prosthetics
20:20In this episode, we’ll hear from some of the key stakeholders - including Drs. Al Emondi and Dustin J. Tyler - related to the DARPA Hand Proprioception and Touch program, or HAPTIX for short. The goal of HAPTIX, which is part of DARPA’s extensive neurotechnology portfolio, is to create and transition clinically relevant technology in support of wounded warriors suffering from single or multiple limb loss. We discuss the program’s impact, not only on from a scientific perspective, but more importantly, from a human one. We’ll also learn about various regulatory aspects of the work; ethical, legal and societal implications; and what’s next in the field of prosthetics.
Episode 54: Climate Tipping Points
18:16In this episode of the Voices from DARPA podcast, we’ll explore a new program with the goal of better identifying and predicting sudden and catastrophic climate change tipping points. Such events could cause major and abrupt disruption to both weather and life on our planet. DARPA’s AI-assisted Climate Tipping-point Modeling (ACTM) program aims to advance artificial intelligence and machine learning to model complex processes that affect Earth’s climate, looking for signs of it going disastrously awry. You’ll hear from the program manager and people working on aspects of the problem, as well as learn about one especially troubling possibility – the slowing, or even entire collapse, of the Atlantic Ocean’s circulating current. “DARPA’s job is to help the United States avoid strategic surprise,” says ACTM program manager Joshua Elliott, “and in my mind there’s no bigger risk or strategic surprise than a sudden and massive and irreversible change in some of the key Earth systems that we rely on for survival.”
Episode 53: So, You Want to Become a DARPA Program Manager?
46:23In this episode of the Voices from DARPA podcast, listeners will hear a “best hits” medley from program managers (PMs), who since 2016 have chronicled in the podcast their joy, sense of accomplishment, scientific stimulation, privilege to influence entire fields of research and development, sense of mission as they further the cause of national defense and security, fun, and, in short, the overall awesomeness of their jobs. Every program manager arrives at DARPA with an expiration date on their badges. It’s a short-term deal that constantly brings in new blood and is routinely cited as part of DARPA’s “special sauce.” Those who become PMs know their jobs likely will end three to five years after they start. Yet so many of them say there is no better job and that they wouldn’t have it any other way. Their collective message is that being a DARPA PM can be a dream job for just about any scientist or engineer, whether they are only beginning to rev up their careers; already making a name for their themselves in an academic, start-up, industry, or government setting; or in search of a second-career to apply the experience and wisdom they have accrued over previous decades of work. At the end of the podcast, DARPA director and former program manager Stefanie Tompkins encapsulates the collective message of the many DARPA voices in this episode: “The program manager is the center of DARPA. The PMs, each and every one of them, has a chance to change the world.”