Sonsteby named executive director of Penn State's Applied Research Laboratory

November 11, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Allan G. Sonsteby, deputy executive director of Penn State’s Applied Research Laboratory (ARL), has been named the executive director of ARL, effective Dec. 1. He succeeds Paul Sullivan, who served as executive director for more than five years.

Sonsteby, an accomplished leader with more than 30 years of experience in research and development, research management, and federal acquisition in academic, industrial and government environments, was selected after a national search led by a 15-member committee comprised of Penn State leaders, faculty, staff and members of ARL’s advisory board.

Allan G. Sonsteby

Allan G. Sonsteby

IMAGE: Penn State

As executive director, Sonsteby will oversee and coordinate ARL’s strategy, research activities and operations. ARL is comprised of approximately 1,400 research faculty, staff and students who are supported by more than $319 million of sponsored research awards annually. ARL has field activities located across the country, including in Warminster, Pennsylvania; Kittanning, Pennsylvania; Freeport, Pennsylvania; Reston, Virginia; Keyport, Washington; and Key West, Florida. As a designated University Affiliated Research Center, ARL conducts essential research, development and systems engineering in support of our nation’s priorities free from conflict of interest or competition with industry.

“ARL is an integral part of Penn State and contributes significantly to the overall research portfolio of the University,” said Lora Weiss, senior vice president for research at Penn State. “ARL supports national security, economic competitiveness and quality of life through education, scientific discovery, technology demonstration and transition to application.”

In 2018, the U.S. Navy awarded ARL the largest research contract in Penn State history — worth as much as $2.1 billion over 10 years to conduct research and development to improve national security.

“Since moving from Harvard to Penn State in 1945, ARL has continuously advanced science in support of our nation’s priorities,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “As Pennsylvania’s land-grant university, I am extremely proud of ARL and its contribution to the commonwealth and the nation. I am grateful for the leadership of Paul Sullivan, and I am confident that ARL will continue to address critical research areas under Allan’s leadership.”

An accomplished researcher and leader, Sonsteby has a strong record of achievement of maturing science and technology into solutions for some of the nation’s most challenging problems.

“Allan has an exemplary record of achievement as a researcher and organizational leader. He brings a wealth of experience to the position, and we are confident that he will provide strong and effective leadership to ARL,” said Weiss.

“I am truly humbled to be selected to lead this amazing institution, which has played a pivotal role in developing critical science and technology in support of our nation for nearly 75 years,” said Sonsteby. “The future of ARL is bright, and I look forward to leading ARL into the future.” 

ARL will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2020.

Throughout his career, Sonsteby has authored numerous technical reports and journal publications and holds a patent for a novel radiolocation technique. He has been a principal investigator on programs sponsored by organizations such as the Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research, Air Force Research Laboratory and industry. He is passionate about the need for fundamental science and discovery to secure the nation and ensure the economic competitiveness of the U.S.  He has presented to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, congressional committees, the departments of Commerce and State, and leadership within the Department of Defense.

Sonsteby previously served as a senior scientist and chief scientist for the U.S. Navy. He also served as chairman and U.S. representative for two NATO technical panels and is the recipient of the NATO Outstanding Leadership Award. Sonsteby recently completed a four-year appointment on the U.S. Air Force Science Advisory Board, reporting directly to the Secretary of the Air Force, and was awarded the Commander’s Public Service Award from the Secretary of the Air Force. Sonsteby is a founding trustee of the Intelligence and National Security Foundation — a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to promote and recognize the highest standards within the national security community.

Sonsteby holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from Penn State. In addition, he holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering with a minor in mathematics.

Last Updated November 11, 2019