AUSTIN, Texas — UT Austin alumnus Karl Fisher has been chosen to lead Applied Research Laboratories, The University of Texas at Austin (ARL:UT), one of the largest research units within the University of Texas System. Fisher joined ARL:UT in 1996 as a physicist and researcher, and he has been the director of the unit’s Signal and Information Sciences Laboratory since 2002.
Fisher will play a leading role in overseeing the largest research contract in the university’s history, awarded by the Department of Defense (DoD) last year and worth as much as $1.1 billion over 10 years to conduct research and development to improve U.S. national security.
“ARL:UT’s emphasis on scientific, technical and intellectual excellence has allowed it to both support our national security and advance the research mission of the university,” said Daniel T. Jaffe, vice president for research at UT Austin. “Dr. Fisher will be a superb leader as ARL:UT grows to meet the future needs of the United States, helps to train the next generation of technology leadership, and contributes to the creation of new knowledge.”
Jaffe said Fisher’s broad background, vision and extensive experience were strong factors in his selection as the next executive director. ARL:UT employs about 400 scientists and engineers out of a staff of nearly 750 and has 100 students working year-round.
Fisher succeeds Dr. Clark Penrod, who retired last year and joins a line of directors who have maintained the laboratories at the cutting edge of research and development in multiple fields.
ARL:UT is one of five U.S. Navy University Affiliated Research Centers, laboratories that have long-term strategic relationships with the DoD and are considered trusted agents. These affiliated research centers provide essential research capabilities, develop new technology for national security applications and provide technical advice to DoD program managers.
Since its founding in 1945, ARL:UT has made significant contributions to the store of knowledge in its basic core mission areas. It has been a key developer of sonar equipment and processing techniques for the U.S. Navy, has led research on GPS and satellite navigation technologies since the inception of these technologies, and is on the forefront of the information sciences with research in areas such as cybersecurity, content understanding and quantum computing.
ARL:UT has made important contributions to the university’s educational mission by providing more than 4,000 students with valuable work experience over its history, helping to encourage and shape the students’ careers in science and engineering. ARL:UT was also one of the first high-tech employers in Austin, and several staff members went on to form other high-tech Austin companies such as Tracor and National Instruments.
After his undergraduate studies at Texas, Fisher earned a Ph.D. in physics at the University of California, Berkeley. His personal research focuses on signal and information processing with applications to undersea warfare. He will begin his new duties April 1.