Tom McDermott, who has served as deputy director and director of research at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), has been named GTRI’s interim director. McDermott will assume GTRI leadership from current director Stephen E. Cross, who was named Georgia Tech’s first executive vice president for research on May 1.
“Tom’s ability to think strategically, innovate and take calculated risk made him the perfect candidate for the job of interim director of GTRI,” Cross said. “He is committed to GTRI’s role as part of Georgia Tech, has a wide and deep knowledge of the work done at GTRI and understands the customers’ needs.”
One of McDermott’s top priorities as interim director is to complete the update of GTRI’s strategic plan and ensure its alignment with the new Georgia Tech Strategic Plan.
“We are developing a long-term strategy that will improve GTRI’s ability to adapt to changing financial environments and successfully expand into new research areas if defense funding decreases,” explained McDermott.
This strategic growth effort has already begun, with GTRI recently garnering multi-million dollar contracts in the targeted areas of cybersecurity, human behavior modeling and autonomous unmanned vehicles. The organization also began the campus-wide FutureMediasm initiative aimed at engaging entrepreneurs, industry, venture capitalists and universities in the future of digital, social and mobile media.
While interim director, McDermott will continue in his role as director of research, supervising all laboratory operations and business development for GTRI’s $200 million research program. With his help, GTRI’s research awards have risen about 63 percent in the past three years. As a result, the organization hired more than 200 new researchers, 100 new students and 100 new support staff members.
McDermott also helped develop and implement Georgia Tech’s new Professional Master’s Degree in Applied Systems Engineering, which began offering its first classes last fall. The program combines the systems engineering expertise of researchers in GTRI and the Georgia Tech College of Engineering to provide a unique program that provides both academic and experiential learning.
Previously, McDermott managed GTRI’s Electronic Systems Laboratory (ELSYS) as its director and worked for 18 years at Lockheed-Martin Aeronautical Systems in Marietta, Ga. He holds a master's in electrical engineering and a bachelor's in physics, both from Georgia Tech.
McDermott is looking forward to leading GTRI and building on its recent successes during this transition period. The timeline for the new director search will be announced by the end of May.
“We have a strong leadership team here at GTRI already, so the number one focus of the new GTRI director should be to maintain communication and manage relationships with the higher levels of the defense communities,” said McDermott.