Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory Director Ralph Semmel visits Morgan State University; Anticipates Potential Partnerships with Morgan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 23, 2013  Bookmark and Share

September 17, 2013, The Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD - The Morgan State University (MSU), Vice President of Research and Economic Development, Dr. Victor R. McCrary, hosted The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Director, Dr. Ralph D. Semmel, as the initial speaker for the Fall 2014 MSU Research Colloquium Series.  Dr. Semmel spoke for an hour about APL's critical contributions in research, technology, and development to a packed room of Morgan State University administrators, faculty, staff, and students. Hearing about the breadth of APL's inventions, innovations, and the pivotal role this world renowned laboratory in Howard County played in our Nation's history, left the MSU audience in awe and led to many, many questions! Later in the presentation, Dr. Semmel further captured the interest of the MSU audience in relation to the potential of partnering with APL, through faculty collaborations, research sub-contracts, and internships for students. A Morgan State University and APL formal partnership would lead to enhanced transformational research and innovative solutions in the areas of national security, human terrain, and cybersecurity.

APL is a not-for-profit, university affiliated research and development center employing about 5,000 people. APL is serves as a technical resource for the Department of Defense, NASA, and other government agencies. Created in 1942 during World War II as part of the Government's effort to mobilize the nation's science and engineering expertise within its universities, APL succeeded in developing the variable-time proximity fuze that played a significant role in the Allied victory. APL later became heavily involved in the development of guided missile technology for the US Navy.  

In addition to developing the technologies behind air, land, and water defense, Dr. Semmel believed that the one of the two greatest contributions of APL is development of the technology which was the forerunner of the Global Positioning System (GPS). Standalone GPS and navigation capabilities embedded in our smartphones that help us find our way, whether it be to the closest coffee shop in the Baltimore Harbor, or that one parking garage in busy Manhattan, are offshoots of a technology developed decades ago, albeit for a different and more complex purpose.  

The other great APL contribution, from Dr. Semmel's perspective, is the modular prosthetic limb. While still in the stage of refining the technology and accurately incorporating an almost-human interface, this has the greatest potential to bring back the quality of life that our veterans have lost while fighting for the country's cause.  Because a lot of our Nation's heroes come back with their limbs mangled and amputated, this technology brings anthropomorphic (lifelike) form factor and appearance with human-like strength and dexterity, tactile and position sensing, and a neural interface for intuitive and natural closed-loop control. The result would be a highly functioning limb that enables carrying out routine daily activities, and return to the active workforce.  

Dr. Semmel is the eighth director of the Applied Physics Laboratory and has led the organization since 2010. A strong supporter of education, Dr. Semmel served from 1997 through 2010 as chair of the graduate programs in computer science, information assurance, and information systems engineering for The Johns Hopkins University's Engineering for Professionals Program. As a faculty member, he taught in the program from 1988 to 2001. He has an exhaustive list of publications in the areas of artificial intelligence, database systems and software engineering. He also has led and continues to serve on a variety of executive-level government science and technology boards, panels, and committees.  

The Morgan State University Research Colloquium Series is a monthly offering by the Division of Research and Economic Development to foster a university- and community-wide environment conducive to discovery, innovation, research, and economic development. Previous speakers have included Dr. Dean Collins, former deputy director of the Microsystems Technology Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).   

Morgan State University, founded in 1867, is a Carnegie classified Doctoral Research Institution offering more than 70 academic programs leading to bachelors degrees as well as programs at the masters and doctoral levels. As Maryland's Public Urban Research University, Morgan serves a multi-ethnic and multi-racial student body and seeks to ensure that the doors of higher education are opened as wide as possible to as many as possible. For more information on Morgan State University, visit

Dr. Victor R. McCrary
VP for Research & Economic Development

Mr. Clinton R. Coleman
Director, Public Relations & Communications