Whiting School, Applied Physics Lab launch multimillion-dollar SURPASS initiative

Up to five projects will be funded during the first year; total funding could one day exceed $100 million in external support

More than half a century of collaboration between engineers and scientists at the Whiting School of Engineering and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory has yielded an abundance of groundbreaking, life-improving innovation in areas ranging from space travel to medical robotics to materials.

"The history of work between WSE and APL abounds with people saying something is impossible, and us proving it wasn't," said Ed Schlesinger, Benjamin T. Rome Dean of WSE. "Working together, we've defied expectations, time and again, with groundbreaking solutions to critical challenges."

Now WSE and APL are poised to build on that record of successful collaboration with an aptly named new multimillion-dollar initiative. SURPASS leverages WSE and APL's unique technical strengths and research-and-development communities, supporting cross-divisional teams dedicated to using innovative, multidisciplinary approaches to solving some of the world's most pressing problems. The goal? To boldly reimagine what is possible.

"When APL and the Whiting School team up to tackle seemingly impossible challenges, we can make history," said APL Director Ralph Semmel. "SURPASS will propel us into a new age of innovation and collaboration between our institutions, and provide us with an opportunity to pursue endeavors that have great potential for game-changing impact."

The new partnership was announced March 24 at the Whiting School's annual faculty retreat, held at the Kossiakoff Center on APL's Laurel, Maryland campus. At the event, Semmel noted there are currently about 60 collaborative projects between APL and Whiting — a number APL and WSE would like to see increase significantly. After a Q&A session with Semmel and Schlesinger, the nearly 170 attendees then partook in collaborative brainstorming sessions designed to introduce WSE faculty and APL staff members from divergent technical areas.

Proposals to the open-call program will address a range of challenges—such as protecting the environment, curbing climate change, or producing eminently trusted artificial intelligence-enabled systems—presenting a vision not only for solving that problem but also for developing and deploying the solution in the real world.

In this first year of the partnership, as many as five projects will be funded, with total support per year of up to $2.5 million. Organizers say that research conducted under the program's auspices could one day exceed $100 million in external support.

The SURPASS initiative joins a growing list of opportunities for APL staff members to engage with other divisions across Johns Hopkins and further aims to significantly streamline that collaboration process. The initiative will also foster new relationships between the two institutions, lower barriers to collaboration, increase joint mission-driven research, and increase the number of joint staff/faculty appointments.

"This is more than just a partnership; it's a chance to surpass what we and everyone else have been doing to make the world a better place," Schlesinger said.

For more information, visit https://surpass.jhu.edu.