UW News

September 28, 2017

Lisa M. Zurk named executive director of UW Applied Physics Laboratory

Lisa Zurk will be the next executive director of the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington (APL-UW), Vice Provost for Research Mary Lidstrom announced this week. She will be the first woman to hold the position of executive director of APL-UW. Zurk comes to the UW from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), where she directed allocation of the nation’s research investments. As a program manager in the agency’s Strategic Technology Office, her area of interest was physics-based processing techniques applied to advanced sensor system concepts.

Lisa M. Zurk

Lisa M. Zurk

An alumna of the UW, Zurk’s most recent academic position was as professor of electrical and computer engineering at Portland State University. During her decade-long career at PSU she founded and co-directed the Northwest Electromagnetic and Acoustics Research Laboratory (NEAR-Lab), which is recognized nationally for developing advanced techniques to exploit physics-based wave phenomena.

Zurk will join the UW this spring to become the eighth leader of APL-UW, succeeding Jeff Simmen, the executive director since 2003. Bob Miyamoto, director for defense and industry programs at APL-UW, will serve as interim executive director.

She will also join the UW Department of Electrical Engineering as a full professor. The department holds strong ties with APL-UW on a number of different research projects and grants. Zurk’s appointment further enriches the interdisciplinary efforts of UW EE and APL-UW.

“We are very excited to have Lisa join UW EE as a new faculty member,” said Radha Poovendran, professor and chair of the department. “Lisa has collaborated with both UW EE and APL-UW on multiple projects throughout her successful career. Her appointment as executive director of APL-UW further fosters our collaborative relationship with APL-UW.”

Zurk has been associated with APL-UW throughout her career. She pursued research with laboratory mentors while a graduate student in the UW Department of Electrical Engineering, where her dissertation was on electromagnetic wave propagation in remote sensing of snow, then was an APL-UW associate scientist during her tenure at Portland State University and a principal investigator in collaborative sponsored research with APL-UW scientists.

“I am tremendously excited to be returning to APL and UW to grow and strengthen the critical science and engineering expertise these talented individuals provide for our nation and our community,” Zurk said.

Zurk earned a bachelor’s in computer science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, a master’s in electrical and computer engineering from Northeastern University, and a doctorate from the UW in electrical engineering. Before joining Portland State University, Zurk was a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, where she created and managed a program spanning technical areas from underwater acoustics to radar systems.

Her many accolades and distinctions include receiving a Fulbright scholarship, the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the Office of Naval Research Faculty Award, and fellow status in the Acoustical Society of America.

The Applied Physics Laboratory of the UW was established by the U.S. Navy nearly 75 years ago. Since then, APL-UW has provided access to the highest levels of academic expertise in scientific research and engineering to Navy-specific problems. Administered by the UW Office of Research, APL-UW advances university missions through research excellence, educating scientists and engineers, technology innovation and national service.