Alumnus named defense research liaison for College of Engineering, ARL

Ashley WennersHerron
June 12, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Ned Brokloff is back home. A 1982 graduate of the Penn State College of Engineering, Brokloff has spent the past 36 years at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, connecting researchers with engineers to translate science from theory to practice for the U.S. Department of Defense. Now, he will do similar work as the defense-related research liaison for the College of Engineering and the Applied Research Laboratory (ARL). 

Portrait of Ned Brokloff

Ned Brokloff

IMAGE: Penn State

Brokloff’s main objective is to match the capabilities in engineering with opportunities across laboratories and agencies that support federal government research, specifically for defense. He is working to achieve this goal through a three-pronged approach. First, he is connecting engineering faculty with ARL faculty and engineers. 

“While there is already some overlap, there needs to be a better fundamental understanding of the type of work each group is doing,” Brokloff said. “ARL is doing research toward a specific application. Engineering faculty tend toward more exploratory research — research that could eventually lead to an application, but that’s not always the main goal.” 

That leads to the second prong. Brokloff is matching current research in engineering with current sponsored programs in ARL. 

“An engineering research project might have a clear potential application that ARL is also working toward,” Brokloff said. 

He pointed to autonomous vehicles, which have both commercial and military applications, as an example. 

“They each have a piece of the mission, so they need to accomplish their individual tasks, but we want them working as a team so that they don’t duplicate tasks or leave gaps in their tasks,” Brokloff said. “The need for developing this technology could guide fundamental research to the point of application, but the researchers and the engineers may be unaware that they’re each holding a piece of this puzzle.” 

Brokloff’s role is to make those connections, guiding the pieces from theory, development and implementation into one big picture, especially for future research. That’s the third prong. 

“Is the research taking place in engineering right now something that ARL can develop into a specific application in a decade?” Brokloff asked. “Necessity is the mother of invention, as we know. I’m figuring out what fundamental research can be applied to a wide range of more practical needs.” 

Brokloff views his work through a distinct lens: He earned his degree in the College of Engineering and he has spent his career doing similar research and match-making for Johns Hopkins University. He intimately understands the needs of both entities, according to Justin Schwartz, the Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering. 

“Ned is uniquely qualified to improve our current collaborations and help start new ones,” Schwartz said. “An engineer himself, Ned understands the technical skills underlying new technologies. He also has significant networking experience in building relationships and making connections to move engineering forward.” 

While Brokloff is just now returning to Penn State for work, he has been deeply involved with the Penn State community for the last decade. An active member of the Penn State Alumni Association, Brokloff is also a passionate donor and mentor for the students producing THON, the student-run philanthropic 46-hour dance marathon that raises awareness and millions of dollars to benefit those affected by childhood cancer. 

“I grew up in State College, raised by parents who worked at Penn State,” Brokloff said. “I always knew I’d go to Penn State and hoped that one day I would return. Now, my dream is coming true.”  

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 13, 2019