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Eric Evans to step down as director of MIT Lincoln Laboratory

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Eric Evans to step down as director of MIT Lincoln Laboratory

Eric Evans can be stepping down as director of MIT Lincoln Laboratory on July 1, 2024, after 18 years leading a laboratory that has served the nation through its technology research and development since 1951.

Evans will transition into the role of fellow within the director’s office at Lincoln Laboratory. He will even hold an appointment on the MIT campus as a senior fellow within the Security Studies Program. He’ll support the continuing growth of collaborative research and development between Lincoln Laboratory and the MIT campus, including in areas related to climate change in addition to the exploration of advanced technology applications throughout the Security Studies Program.

The transition will mark the tip of a successful tenure wherein Evans led the laboratory to adapt and strengthen during a time of great change for national security needs. He has also served as a key advisor on technology technique to senior government leaders. 

“It has been an honor and privilege to steer MIT Lincoln Laboratory,” Evans says. “I actually appreciate what our laboratory community has done over a few years to develop a number of the nation’s most vital and difficult technical advancements.” 

Lincoln Laboratory is a federally funded research and development center that focuses on technology development, system prototyping, and capability transition to the federal government, business firms, and industry.

Under Evans’ leadership, the laboratory established recent research and development mission areas in cybersecurity, homeland protection, and biotechnology, and commenced recent programs in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, climate change technology, quantum information science, and energy system resilience. Evans has also strengthened ties with the MIT research community, increased diversity and inclusion efforts, advanced STEM education initiatives, and developed recent models for technology transfer to small and medium-size business firms.

Evans has also been a member and vice chair and is now chair of the Defense Science Board (DSB). The DSB investigates science and technology needs for the U.S. Department of Defense and strives to resolve highly unstructured problems and develop recent opportunities for the defense of the nation.

“During his twenty years of service to Lincoln Laboratory, Eric’s leadership has proven what an ambitious R&D laboratory and a significant institute can achieve together: transformative improvements to the systems that keep the world secure, and an enduring impact on the practice of innovation itself,” says Maria Zuber, MIT’s vp for research. “Eric has been ahead of the curve in recognizing the worldwide implications of emerging technology areas, and he’s been a trusted advisor on science and technology strategy. The culture of excellence, collaboration, and creativity that Eric has sustained at Lincoln Laboratory ensures its success well into the long run. I’m thankful for his service and grateful that he’ll remain at MIT in his recent roles.”

Zuber announced Evans’ decision in a letter to college and staff today. She is going to appoint a search committee to advise on the collection of the laboratory’s next director.

A profession in service

Evans began at Lincoln Laboratory in 1988 as a technical staff member. After being named director of Lincoln Laboratory in 2006, he immediately began working with laboratory leaders and staff to develop recent mission areas and programs based on national needs. He worked with many on the laboratory to ascertain a big homeland-protection mission area to create sensors and data integration systems to support the needs of the Department of Homeland Security. Under Evans’ leadership the laboratory developed recent homeland air defense capabilities and chemical and biological sensor systems to defend against advanced threats.

Later, the laboratory established a cybersecurity mission area to handle the dynamic threats posed by cyberattacks. Through many recent programs, Lincoln Laboratory researchers developed technology to help within the protection of defense and civilian cyber networks and to enhance the cyber resilience of hardware and software for brand new computing systems.

The laboratory also began significant recent work in biotechnology and human systems to develop advanced systems for monitoring health status and assisting in injury recovery for the Army and other sponsors. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Evans directed the laboratory to rapidly apply its biotechnology resources to the issues of medical resource allocation, health monitoring, automatic contact tracing, and virus dispersion evaluation. A lot of these technologies proceed to be improved and transitioned to recent applications.

Leveraging large defense investments for airborne ground mapping sensors and communication networks, the laboratory established recent programs for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, including rapid responses to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas.

Evans has also focused on expanding other programs to handle civilian needs. For instance, recent aircraft collision-avoidance and weather avoidance technology developed with funding from the FAA has improved flight safety worldwide.

NASA-funded programs have also benefited from Lincoln Laboratory initiatives. A significant milestone occurred in 2013 with the primary two-way demonstration of wide-bandwidth laser communication between the moon and Earth. This innovation opened up recent possibilities for NASA, which plans to make use of the technology to relay data across interplanetary distances.

“Eric is a gifted and impactful leader who has transferred advances in innovation and research beyond the borders of the lab, in service to the world,” says MIT Provost Cynthia Barnhart. 

Stronger ties to MIT

Over the past 15 years, the variety of Lincoln Laboratory research collaborations with MIT’s campus has increased by nearly an element of 4. The laboratory has expanded collaboration by providing funding for campus research, making lots of its facilities available for campus researchers, supporting undergraduate and graduate teaching, and posing recent research questions.

As an element of that collaboration, Lincoln Laboratory partnered with MIT’s School of Engineering in 2013 to ascertain the Beaver Works Center at MIT. The power enables collaborative prototyping and technology development by MIT researchers and Lincoln Laboratory technical staff.

More recently, Lincoln Laboratory worked with the MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics to ascertain the Center for Quantum Engineering to develop recent technologies for quantum computing, sensing, and communication. Lincoln Laboratory can also be a contributor to the Department of the Air Force – MIT Artificial Intelligence Accelerator program.

A distinguished example of research collaboration was the 2018 launch of the NASA Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Lincoln Laboratory worked closely with the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research to develop the highly sensitive cameras onboard TESS, which since its launch has discovered many recent planets orbiting distant stars.

Striving for an inclusive culture and community service

Throughout his tenure, Evans has also taken steps to boost the laboratory’s culture to be more inclusive and supportive, significantly increasing the proportion of girls and folks of color in technical and leadership roles. He established an Office of Diversity and Inclusion, appointed a chief diversity and inclusion officer, and strengthened the Human Resources Department to enhance staff recruiting, development, and retention.

To support the national need for more diverse talent, Evans served for six years because the chair of the board for the National GEM Consortium, a corporation that gives fellowships to underrepresented minorities pursuing graduate degrees in STEM fields. Through the efforts of many GEM volunteers and staff, the variety of GEM fellowships increased significantly during Evans’ tenure leading the board. “I deeply appreciated being involved on this program supporting a critically necessary need,” Evans says. “The GEM mission is outstanding, and Lincoln Laboratory has very much benefited from their support and from the exceptional GEM Fellows we’ve hired.”

Evans has also strongly supported the creation of many programs to advertise K-12 student interest in STEM fields. The laboratory’s STEM outreach programs have reached greater than 100,000 students across the country, with nearly 8,000 students per yr involved in programs that include constructing radars, designing small satellites, creating autonomous model cars, and developing recent cryptography algorithms.

Positioned for future success

Moving forward, Evans has positioned Lincoln Laboratory to proceed evolving its mission. The laboratory is currently pursuing research in emerging technology areas resembling artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, and quantum systems and making major investments in recent facilities and specialized laboratories.

As a part of its facilities modernization, the laboratory recently broke ground for the development of a big, $300M microelectronics laboratory to develop recent technology for sensing and computing. A second $300 million Department of Defense investment is for an engineering prototyping facility that can begin construction in 2026. Several other recent research and development facilities are planned through a long-term facilities modernization plan supported by the DoD. “These facilities investments will enable the laboratory to stay a powerful center for developing revolutionary technology for many years to return,” Evans says.

After he steps down as director, Evans will proceed to work with the defense community to support studies for current and future defense system and technology needs. He will even be developing and teaching courses related to technology for national security.

“MIT Lincoln Laboratory is a special place, and I even have really enjoyed the experiences of leading and learning. I’m most pleased with the numerous impact our creative leaders and staff have had on national security and society over a few years,” Evans says.

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