Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA): Who Is Arati Prabhakar?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Hoping to move beyond the conflict of interest controversy that torpedoed the tenure of outgoing director Regina Dugan, the Obama administration has named a new director for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Dugan resigned in March over revelations that her family firm, RedXDefense, won $400,000 in Darpa contracts while Dugan was director—and while the company owed her about $250,000.
Dr. Arati Prabhakar, who starts her new position at Darpa on July 30, was born in 1959 in New Delhi, India. She came to the U.S. at the age of 3 with her mother, who was seeking a graduate degree in social work at the University of Chicago. When she was 7, the family moved to Lubbock, Texas, where she grew up. She earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering at nearby Texas Tech University in 1979, and an M.S. in Electrical Engineering and a Ph.D. in Applied Physics at the California Institute of Technology in 1980 and 1984, respectively. The first woman to win a Ph.D. in applied physics at Caltech, Prabhakar’s doctoral dissertation was entitled, “Investigation of Deep Level Defects in Semiconductor Material Systems.”
More interested in exploring the policy implications of science than engaging in research, Prabhakar went to Washington, DC, in 1984 on a Congressional fellowship with the Office of Technology Assessment, where she wrote on microelectronics research and development. She then served at DARPA from 1986 to 1993, first as a program manager and then as founding director of the Microelectronics Technology Office. In May 1993, at the age of 34, Prabhakar became director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, an agency traditionally involved in defining technical standards, but which the Clinton administration wanted to use to encourage high-tech economic development.
Prabhakar left public service for the private sector in 1997 by joining Raychem, a publicly held specialty materials company, as senior vice president and chief technology officer. She was subsequently with Interval Research Corporation, a laboratory for consumer technology, as vice president and then president. In 2001, Prabhakar became a partner at U.S. Venture Partners (USVP), a venture capital firm in Menlo Park, California, where she worked with new high tech companies.
USVP was a primary investor in solar panel maker Solyndra, whose failure after receiving loan guarantees from the Obama Energy Department raised questions about the influence of prominent campaign contributors. According to the Wall Street Journal, it’s “unclear whether Prabhakar was directly involved with the firm’s Solyndra stake,” although Wired magazine recently quoted an unnamed senior defense official saying that “Dr. Prabakhar…had no involvement in the federal loan guarantee for Solyndra and wasn’t involved in the restructuring of the loan.”
Prabhakar chairs the Efficiency and Renewables Advisory Committee for the U.S. Department of Energy, is a member of the National Academies Science Technology and Economic Policy board, a member of the College of Engineering Advisory Board at UC Berkeley, and a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. She serves on the board of directors of SRI International, a nonprofit research institute, and either serves or has served on the boards of Kilopass Technology, Inc., SiBEAM, Inc., Lightspeed Logic, Inc., NanoSolar, Inc., Arradiance, Inc., Kleer Corporation, and Pivotal Systems Corp.
A finance industry Democrat, Prabhakar has made political contributions totaling $12,586 since 2003, about two-thirds of it ($8,636) to the National Venture Capital Association PAC, which funnels money to Democratic and Republican candidates about equally. Prabhakar also contributed $500 to Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (Ind.-Connecticut) Senate campaign in 2003, $1,000 to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential run and $2,200 to Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.
-Matt Bewig


George Kimball 5 years ago
I know her and she is quite able, but not more than lots of other people. Average at CIT, which has lots of women PhDs - the dept she was in was only formed a few years previously. She got her first big job, NIST director because Bill Clinton wanted visible minorities and women in appointee jobs. After being a director at a federal agency, other high level jobs are a lateral, and awards from every direction go with the territory. She's a fine person, quite able, but has benefited enormously from the favored status assigned by the exploiters of minority politics. BTW there is just no way whatever she would have touched the Solyndra cesspool.
David Miller 5 years ago
@Richard Drozek: Wow, you are an ignorant bigoted moron. What's your resume, besides being a fool? Let's take a peak at the "dark-skinned Indian's" resume: Dr. Prabhakar received her Doctor of Philosophy in applied physics and Master of Science in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology. She received her Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Texas Tech University. She began her career as a Congressional Fellow at the Office of Technology Assessment. Dr. Prabhakar joined DARPA in 1986 as a program manager. She initiated and managed programs in advanced semiconductor technology and flexible manufacturing. She was the founding director of DARPA’s Microelectronics Technology Office. Dr. Prabhakar was the chief technology officer and senior vice president at Raychem, and later vice president and then president of Interval Research. From 2001 to 2011, she was a partner with U.S. Venture Partners, an early-stage venture capital firm. Dr. Prabhakar identified and served as a director for startup companies with the promise of significant growth. She worked with entrepreneurs focused on energy and efficiency technologies, consumer electronics components, and semiconductor process and design technologies. Dr. Prabhakar has served in recent years on the National Academies' Science Technology and Economic Policy Board, the College of Engineering Advisory Board at the University of California, Berkeley, and the red team of DARPA's Defense Sciences Research Council. In addition, she chaired the Efficiency and Renewables Advisory Committee for the U.S. Department of Energy. Dr. Prabhakar is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a Member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Texas Tech Distinguished Engineer, and a Caltech Distinguished Alumna. So Richard Drozek, stay in your parent's basement and play donkey kong and let the adults take of things.
dilbert123 6 years ago
What a bigot Richard Drozek is! "dark-skinned Indians" "trickery and outright lying"! America is a meritocracy and Prabakar has earned her position based on her academic achievements and work experience. Go jump out the window Richard if you cant measure up.
Richard Drozek 7 years ago
As always, a dual citizen of India and USA is propelled into Affirmative Action priority in University admissions, US Gov high-level executive paying positions, and applauded for her genius and acumen. Beginning with Lyndon Johnson, American born engineers have been pushed behind the bus by the agenda of the Democratic Party to insure that the dark-skinned Indians obtain the executive jobs and high paying opportunities that were the goals of American born citizens. Government run by the Democrats have destroyed economic opportunities for many of us and yet, through trickery and out-right lying, are pushing the uneducated and unskilled upon America's workers. I do not see why we should applaud a woman who "gamed the system" and forced the normal candidate for the job to take three steps behind the line, so that the DEMS could go after the Indians that took over our High Tech Jobs. I am sure that in the end, a price will be paid as more and the Democrat political class that uses gender and racial superiority and priority to gain an edge in the voting booth is marginalizing more Americans. The GOP is nothing more than an extension of this same mind set, that if you are born a white male, you must resign yourself to a struggling economic lifestyle so that foreign-born females from South America and India can steal our birthright!

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