Joan Bienvenue, formerly chief scientist and program manager at Lockheed Martin, took the helm as director of the University of Virginia’s Applied Research Institute on June 1.
Located north of Charlottesville at the University of Virginia Research Park, the institute was created in 2011 to leverage the University’s human and capital assets to support applied research, education and training with a focus on homeland security, national intelligence and defense challenges.
The institute’s mission is to create research opportunities for faculty, staff and students; develop and provide education and training programs relevant to its partners; foster pan-University research initiatives; provide U.Va. students unique analytical, research and development opportunities; and facilitate faculty/scientific exchanges with industry and government. It has been led by Alfred Weaver, a computer science professor in U.Va.’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, who will remain involved as a researcher and associate director, in addition to his other teaching and research endeavors.
Faculty in U.Va.’s Engineering School, School of Medicine and the College of Arts & Sciences are involved in research in the institute. Research partners to date include Northrop Grumman, Syracuse Research Corporation, TASC, Signature Science and Battelle, among others, working on projects related to undersea power units, cyber security, custom integrated circuits, scientometric analysis of scientific literature, bioinformatics and infectious disease.
“In searching for a new director for ARI, we were looking for an individual with executive experience successfully leading and managing national organizations and programs and with demonstrated excellence working within the Department of Defense and the national intelligence community,” John D. Simon, executive vice president and provost, said. “We couldn’t be more pleased that Joan Bienvenue accepted our offer. I am confident that she will move ARI forward in ways that benefit the University and the wider community.”
A native of Auburn, N.H., and a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences since 2001, Bienvenue holds a B.S. degree in chemistry from Rivier University in Nashua, N.H., an M.S. degree in forensic science from the University of New Haven (Conn.), a Ph.D. degree in chemistry from the University of Virginia and an MBA from the University of Mary Washington.
She was a National Institute of Justice graduate research fellow while studying at U.Va., where her graduate work focused on the development of novel DNA purification schemes in integrated microfluidic systems for clinical and forensic DNA analysis. After earning her Ph.D., she was an ORISE postdoctoral research fellow at the FBI Academy-Quantico, evaluating methods for DNA purification from bone. She then joined the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory as the validation and quality control supervisor, where she managed the quality-control team and oversaw the evaluation, validation and implementation of new technology for both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA forensic casework analysis.
Bienvenue’s work at Lockheed Martin involved the development of rapid microfluidic DNA analysis systems. She joined the company in 2008.
“I see this new position as a unique opportunity to take the work begun by Professor Weaver and others and build ARI into a world-class research center that will enable faculty to interact and work with government agencies and will offer new opportunities for U.Va. to develop high-level research related to issues of great importance to the U.S.,” Bienvenue said.
Her short-term goal is to increase conversations between defense agencies, the University and private industry and to build a conduit to bring people together to address national security issues.
“We want to continue these conversations and to raise awareness of ARI, beyond the walls of the University and inside those walls as well. I’d like to see faculty throughout Grounds involved in research sponsored by ARI,” she said.
Bienvenue will be based at the research park, but will also have an office in Olsson Hall to facilitate her interactions with faculty and students.
“Ultimately, I would like to see ARI become a premier center that addresses today’s biggest challenges for national security and defense, including areas of cyber security, biometrics and forensics, advanced materials and surveillance and other emerging threats, and has the involvement of the whole University community,” she said.