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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University October 10, 2005 | Vol. 35 No. 6
APL Creates Applied Information Sciences Department, Names Head

Ralph Semmel

By Paulette Campbell
Applied Physics Laboratory

Ralph Semmel, a widely respected expert on database systems and artificial intelligence, will head the Applied Physics Laboratory's Applied Information Sciences Department, a new division created to respond to the rapid evolution of information technology.

In the past three years alone, APL's work in the area of infocentric operations has doubled, and includes pivotal roles in the development of key government networks such as the Global Information Grid, the next-generation information technology architecture to be used by the Department of Defense and the intelligence community.

"Information technology has become increasingly important to the Lab and its sponsors," said Semmel, who assumed leadership of the new department and of APL's Infocentric Operations Business Area last week. "The AIS department will serve as a resource for all Lab business areas that have needs in computing, networking, information security and related information sciences areas."

While new and growing rapidly, the Applied Information Sciences Department is starting with 350 people, most of whom were on the IO team in the Power Projection Systems Department. It will build upon that team's work to meet the challenges of providing assured access to, swift exploitation of and targeted action against critical information to enhance the nation's security.

Drawing heavily on resources from across the Lab — the National Security Analysis, Global Engagement, Air Defense Systems, and Research and Technology Development departments — the IO business area has helped various intelligence organizations develop agile and technologically responsive information-based environments. Moreover, for several years, the Lab has performed systems engineering for a wide variety of DoD communications activities, especially in the areas of satellite communications, strategic communications assessment and communications for combat casualty care.

"We see our relationships with DoD and the intelligence community thriving and growing stronger," Semmel said, "and we are looking to leverage our associations to enhance our contributions to newer sponsors." Among these, he said, is the Department of Homeland Security.

Rich Roca, director of APL, said Semmel was instrumental in leading efforts to build the IO business area into a core business for the Lab. "Over the past three years, he has led a dynamic, rapidly growing business area and staff that have reached a level of capability and contribution warranting establishment of a department," Roca said. "Ralph has worked closely with Laboratory leaders to leverage expertise from across APL to support infocentric operations programs and to provide infocentric operations expertise in support of other business areas. This will be of increasing importance as our sponsors apply ever-advancing information technologies to address key intelligence and war-fighting problems."

Semmel holds a bachelor's degree in engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a master's degree in systems management from the University of Southern California, a master's in computer science from Johns Hopkins and a doctorate in computer science from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He has conducted significant research and development in a broad range of information technology areas. In management roles, he has developed and led numerous programs sponsored by government organizations; recently, for example, he led an influential and highly visible national study on the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure.

During the past three years Semmel served as the Lab's business area executive for Infocentric Operations and assistant department head in the Power Projection Systems Department for infocentric operations. During his 19 years at the Lab, he has held increasingly responsible line and program management assignments. Prior to his most recent assignment, Semmel served as deputy director of the Research and Technology Development Department and as business area executive for Science and Technology, where he played a key role in establishing and guiding strategic APL initiatives in information technology. Semmel also serves as chair of both the Computer Science and Information Systems and Technology professional graduate programs for the JHU School of Engineering.

"AISD is a dream come true for many of us who have been working in the information sciences at APL," Semmel said, "and we look forward to playing a key role for the Lab in developing solutions to the nation's most pressing information-based problems."


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