In early August, SoarTech welcomed Dr. Joseph Cohn to our team as Director of X. Joseph had a 24-year career in the United States Navy, where he served as an aeromedical officer holding a range of research, development and acquisition positions across the Navy and Department of Defense.
Joseph earned his BS in biology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, complemented with “a lot of extra math courses.” He completed his Ph.D. in neuroscience at Brandeis University, under the guidance of Dr. Jim Lackner.
“My research focused on using visual illusions to disrupt the planning and control of movement, providing a framework for understanding how perception of information though different sensory modalities can influence decision making and action,” Joseph explained.
He completed his post-doctoral work at Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences, under Drs. J.A. Scott Kelso and Betty Tuller, applying non-linear modeling techniques to represent human cognition and behavior.
You might ask why Director of X? As SoarTech continues to expand its suite of AI-focused capabilities, Joseph will be helping us grow into new markets. For now, we’re still exploring these new opportunities, hence the variable “X”. Joseph has already begun coordinating with different teams inside the Department of Defense’s Military Health System. Along with Dr. Alyssa Tanaka and Dr. Jon Sussman-Fort, Joseph played a key role in our first major marketing campaign at the Military Health Systems Research Symposium in mid-August, where we had a well-trafficked booth on the exhibit floor. He also led two well-attended panel sessions.
Joseph said there were three things that brought him to SoarTech. “One aspect of my Navy research and acquisition career that I deeply enjoyed was finding a partially defined operational problem and working with end users, acquisition sponsors, program officers, etc., to develop a ‘strategy’ and a team to transform that challenge into a research effort positioned for entry into the acquisition lifecycle,” he said.
He worked with SoarTech on and off since 2000 and was well acquainted with the passion the entire team brings to this solution-centric approach. “SoarTech seemed like a natural fit when I was considering ‘where next’ when retiring from the Navy,” said Joseph.
His second reason is that he firmly believes that the key to delivering capabilities to our warfighters lies in balancing being creative and innovative, which can be a long-term investment, and delivering solutions to a sometimes-truncated development schedule. This often requires knowing how to build the “minimum viable product” – and then being able to iterate to deliver an even better solution downstream.
“I’ve watched many teams, both inside and outside the government, struggle with this balance, and I have seen firsthand that SoarTech understands how to manage that balance,” Joseph adds.
“Lastly, with all the hype and expectations surrounding AI, I have a deep appreciation for SoarTech’s provenance – we don’t just do AI, we develop AI based on over 50 years of research focused on understanding human cognition, intelligence and decision making, to deliver AI solutions that “naturally” work with and enhance the performance of their human teammates.”
Future battles will have challenges like disrupted communication, limited control of the sky, and spread-out warfighters. “When you think about giving medical help to injured warriors in these tough conditions, we’ll need a way to plan and share medical resources ahead of time,” he said.
Additionally, medical staff will need better tools to diagnose and treat injured warfighters for longer times. Autonomous systems may be used to deliver supplies and protection until they can get proper care.
“The medical staff, who are often enlisted personnel, will need more training and more advanced and intuitive tools to stabilize, maintain and heal these warfighters ” he said.
Joseph thinks that many future challenges for warfighters – like advanced training, teaming with unmanned systems, and making sense of lots of conflicting information – can be best addressed through AI partners that “understand” how people think, that can anticipate where cognitive bottlenecks may arise, and that can offer trusted guidance and direction.
“I see a role for every one of SoarTech’s portfolios to deliver on our Nation’s promise to protect and care for our warfighters. AI that seamlessly becomes part of the team is the goal – and the only way to get there is by understanding the human element,” he said. “This is where I see SoarTech crushing it!”
After a little more than a month with the team, Joseph said his favorite thing about working at SoarTech is that even after two decades it still has that “start-up” vibe. “There’s excitement, passion, intellect, and a drive to innovate!”.
When Joseph isn’t working, he enjoys hiking the many different trails across Maryland and Virginia and rock climbing, which he took up during flight school to overcome a fear of heights. “We did a lot of jumping from 30 to 100-foot platforms before getting anywhere near an airplane!”