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Sokolowski Appointed Interim Executive Director of VMASC

John Sokolowski, the top researcher at Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC), has been appointed interim executive director of the center. He succeeds Michael McGinnis, who is leaving VMASC after three years as its leader to become executive director and chief science and technology officer of the Peter Kiewit Institute at the University of Nebraska.

Since the fall of 2006 Sokolowski has been a research professor and director of research for VMASC. He is credited with expanding the areas and amount of research being conducted at the center, and he is an author and co-editor of "Principles of Modeling and Simulation - A Multidisciplinary Approach," the first multidisciplinary textbook in the M&S field.

Sokolowski joined VMASC as a project scientist in 2001 after he retired from the Navy. At the time, he held a bachelor's degree in computer science from Purdue University and a master's in engineering management from ODU. In 2003, the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology awarded him a Ph.D. in modeling and simulation/engineering, the first degree of its kind to be earned worldwide.

His rise at VMASC has been seen as a measure of the center's evolution since 1997 from a humble startup in makeshift quarters to a world-class research, development and instructional operation housed in a specially designed, $12 million facility. McGinnis called Sokolowski in a 2008 interview "the finest combination of leader, educator and researcher I have ever known."

In announcing the leadership change at VMASC on Thursday, April 23, Mohammad Karim, the vice president for research at ODU, said: "John Sokolowski is not only equipped with technical insights of modeling, simulation and visualization but knows far more than many others about how this field will be transitioning in the coming decade to solve real-world problems." Karim said McGinnis' resignation is effective June 9.

Sokolowski became involved in M&S even before he joined VMASC. His last tour in the Navy was as leader of the M&S division of the U.S. Joint Forces Command. As director of research at VMASC, he has helped to build expertise "clusters" that focus on transportation, serious gaming, social sciences, computational sciences and artificial intelligence, and enterprise engineering. He also has strengthened the longstanding VMASC initiatives in military/homeland security and medical M&S.

He collaborated on the "Principles of Modeling and Simulation" textbook with Catherine Banks, a research assistant professor at VMASC. The book was published earlier this year.

VMASC is a catalyst for an M&S sector in Hampton Roads, which has an overall economic impact of as much as $600 million a year, according to a study conducted in 2007. About 60 ODU faculty members and graduate students do research at the facility, which has annual research expenditures of around $10 million.

McGinnis will be returning to his native state. He was raised in the farming community of Wisner, Neb., before being educated at West Point and beginning an Army career. He directed the Army Training and Doctrine Command Analysis Center in Monterey, Calif., and was head of the Department of Systems Engineering at West Point.

The Peter Kiewit Institute promotes connections between business/industry and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Engineering and the University of Nebraska-Omaha's College of Information Science and Technology. The institute's headquarters are in Omaha.

This article was posted on: April 24, 2009

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