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Leading Scholar and Researcher John Sokolowski Named VMASC Executive Director

John Sokolowski, a leading national scholar and researcher in the fast-growing field of modeling and simulation, has been named executive director of Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC).

With the appointment, Sokolowski assumes a primary role in developing an M&S industry that is a significant new driver of economic development in the state. He was selected after a high-profile search by a committee composed of ODU administrators, faculty and M&S industry executives.

ODU President John R. Broderick and Vice President for Research Mohammad Karim announced the selection on Monday, March 8.

Sokolowski, a retired Naval officer, has worked at VMASC for nearly a decade. He served as a project scientist and later as director of research before being called upon a year ago to be interim executive director after the departure of Michael McGinnis, who left VMASC to lead a technology and science center at the University of Nebraska.

"John Sokolowski has been an innovator in modeling and simulation and an efficient collaborator with VMASC's partners," said Broderick. "His appointment will hasten Virginia's rise as a provider of modeling and simulation technology."

One of the industry members of the search committee, John Dannon, senior analyst with the Lockheed Martin Center for Innovation in Suffolk, said of Sokolowski, "He is clearly the right guy for the right job at the right time."

The selection, according to Dannon, "sends a message across the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the nation, that Old Dominion University is committed to providing the best possible leadership to this world-class research center." He added that the new director's "comprehensive vision for VMASC's future and his reputation as a respected researcher ensures that Hampton Roads will remain an international leader in modeling and simulation research."

Dana Dickens, president and chief executive officer of Hampton Roads Partnership, a nonprofit economic development organization, added, "Dr. Sokolowski has a clear vision for the continued leadership of ODU and VMASC in the modeling and simulation arena within the Commonwealth and internationally, capitalizing on partnerships and research between government, industry and academia. The Hampton Roads Partnership and I are eager to continue working with Dr. Sokolowski and VMASC to promote Hampton Roads as the center of the MODSIM World."

(The MODSIM World Conference and Expo in Hampton Roads is an annual meeting that attracts researchers and scholars in modeling, simulation and visualization from around the world.)

Sokolowski agreed that the M&S effort in Hampton Roads and Virginia requires a partnership among academia, industry and the military/government. "It takes all three to move ahead in this increasingly important field," he explained. "Collaboration is key to addressing the many hard problems that only M&S can help solve. VMASC is a true Commonwealth asset."

The new executive director said his goal is to involve as many Virginia public and private universities as possible in moving the discipline ahead. "We have already begun this process by putting together a partnership that includes five other state universities as part of a major funding request that not only will produce cutting-edge research, but also will develop capabilities that will require new job creation."

A collaboration already underway is one that he helped to build between VMASC and Eastern Virginia Medical School. "John is a knowledgeable and valued partner," said C. Donald Combs, vice provost for planning and health professions at EVMS. "We have worked closely with him and his colleagues at VMASC on a number of medical simulation projects. He is both well respected in the national and regional simulation communities as someone who both understands the science and the art of working successfully with others."

Sokolowski's military service also will serve him well as the VMASC leader, according to Tim Baker, the retired Navy captain who is Senior Level, Technical Director/Business Manager for the U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) Joint Warfighting Center in Suffolk. He added: "Dr. Sokolowski is, in my opinion, absolutely the finest choice ODU could have made to lead VMASC's collaborative efforts with USJFCOM in the field of advanced modeling and simulation."

Baker pointed out that while in the military Sokolowski helped to lead the M&S research and development effort that is now the centerpiece of USJFCOM's Joint Training Program. "Since 2005 John has been the ODU lead in developing and fostering the cooperative relationship between ODU and USJFCOM. His work has resulted in the creation of an innovative ODU-USJFCOM Cooperative Research and Development Agreement or CRADA that is tasked with building the next generation M&S architecture. Additionally, Dr. Sokolowski, has through the ODU Research Foundation's Engineering Technical Services Contract and Student/Faculty Contract with USJFCOM, supported advanced M&S research that had benefited the U.S. military and the State of Virginia," Baker said.

Sokolowski is a prolific M&S scholar and his reputation as such was bolstered in 2009 with the publication of "Principles of Modeling and Simulation - A Multidisciplinary Approach," the first multidisciplinary textbook in the M&S field. He was an author and co-editor of the book together with Catherine Banks, a research assistant professor at VMASC.

"John has outstanding subject-matter credentials in M&S, as evidenced by his scholarly books," said Karim. "This is vital to solidifying VMASC as the 'go-to' place for all those who want to find M&S solutions to the problems and challenges that face business, industry, the military, government and many institutions."

Attesting to Sokolowski's credentials as a researcher are the $10 million in research projects he has led while working at VMASC.

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, ODU's 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."

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 helped to build applied research areas that focus on transportation, serious gaming, social science modeling, virtual environments, and supply chain and business process modeling. He also has strengthened the long standing VMASC initiatives in military/homeland security and medical M&S.

VMASC is a catalyst for an M&S sector in Hampton Roads that 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 center, which has annual research expenditures of around $10 million.

This article was posted on: March 9, 2010

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