A cognitive neuroscientist from the Office of Naval Research will be the new executive director of a state program designed to leverage university research into economic development and under scrutiny for inflating its results.
Ivy Estabrooke was picked from more than 140 applicants, according to a USTAR statement, to replace Ted McAleer, who stepped down in January following a scathing legislative audit. It found the $334 million Utah Science and Technology Research initiative had significantly exaggerated the revenue and jobs it created.
The new director will be charged with fixing those problems as well as smoothing over relationships with skeptical legislators. She was chosen by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and the program’s Governing Authority, and was confirmed by the Utah Senate this week.
The Governing Authority decided not to make Estabrooke available for an interview before she starts the job in June, said USTAR spokesman Justin Berry. Berry said her experience managing a large portfolio of research projects at the Navy makes her "uniquely qualified" for the job.
"Working for the federal government and the Navy, she has to be accountable for every single cent she spends. She’s very familiar with that kind of reporting and expectation," he said. "She’s kind of seen all sides … she understands research takes time but she also understands the need to be progressing and moving forward."
Estabrooke has been serving as program officer for basic research at the ONR’s Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department, which develops technology for the Marine Corps.
She also led the department’s efforts to support Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and managed a multimillion-dollar explosives research program.
In her role with the Navy, Estabrooke worked extensively with private industry, experience that should prove valuable for economic development. Dealings with generals and other military personnel should help her communicate with lawmakers, Berry said.
Governing Authority chairman Greg Bell said in a statement that she’s the "best person to foster and nurture" the relationship with the Legislature.
Estabrooke holds a bachelor’s degree from Smith College, a master’s degree in National Security Strategy and Resource Management from the Eisenhower School of the National Defense University and a doctorate in neuroscience from Georgetown University.
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