AI Expert Damon Woodard Assumes Directorship of New National Security Institute at UF

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Damon Woodard, Ph.D.

The Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering at UF is pleased to announce that Damon Woodard, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has agreed to serve as director of the Florida Institute for National Security (FINS). FINS was created in 2012 to serve the workforce and research needs of the country’s national security agencies and industry. The position of director has been vacant since the founding director, Dr. Warren Dixon, became Chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.  As part of a new vision, FINS will particularly focus on leveraging the UF AI Initiative to position the state’s flagship university as the nationally recognized premier provider of AI talent for the national security and defense industry, and as an innovation leader in AI-enabled national security. The Institute will serve as an interdisciplinary, multi-dimensional (physical, cyber, political, economic, ecological, energy) resource for AI workforce development and research. FINS will partner with the College’s Florida Applied Research in Engineering (FLARE) program to advance science and technology vital to the national interest and, in partnership with defense-related companies, launch a cleared talent pipeline program that provides new employment opportunities to our students and alumni.

“Florida is often ground zero regarding several national security matters,” Dr. Woodard said. “Thus, FINS is well situated as the state’s flagship educational institution to partner with the critical national security assets found across the state. FINS is poised to make an enormous impact in supporting our nation’s security through cutting-edge applied AI research and the training of an AI-literate workforce.” 

Dr. Woodard is uniquely suited to serve in this role, having worked closely with numerous agencies in this research space, and having secured the CIA’s first ever university Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA). He recently served as the Director of AI Partnerships for the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, is an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Senior Member, an Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Senior Member, a National Academy of Science Kavli Frontiers Fellow, and a member of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI). Dr. Woodard received his Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Notre Dame, his M.E. in Computer Science and Engineering from Penn State University, and his B.S. in Computer Science and Computer Information Systems from Tulane University. Before becoming a faculty member, Dr. Woodard was a Director of Central Intelligence postdoctoral fellow. His research interests include the application of artificial intelligence (deep learning, computer vision, natural language processing, reinforcement learning) to various problems in the national security and cybersecurity problem domains.