Tom Slezak to advise Department of Defense on biodefense

Aug. 15, 2012
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Tom Slezak to advise Department of Defense on biodefense

Katherine M Walter,, 925-423-2688
Bioinformatics expert Tom Slezak is no stranger to the National Academy of Science (NAS), having served on two committees since 2009. Recently, he was asked to join a standing committee chartered by the Department of Defense (DoD) to advise the DoD on biodefense issues, a much broader scope than either of his previous committee mandates.

The NAS in Washington, D.C., is the foremost source of scientific information and opinion in the country. Governmental agencies and other organizations depend on NAS expertise for independent evaluations of various topics. NAS committee findings frequently form the basis of public policy for decades to come.

"It is quite an honor to be asked to serve on this committee, which includes experts whom I hold in the highest regard," Slezak says. "It is also an honor to be the only national lab representative, the only computer scientist...and the only non-Ph.D.!"

Slezak's two-year appointment started on July 26, and the first meeting is in September. Meetings occur about once a quarter and each covers a different topic. Committee members call in experts from around the country to discuss the topic, and members informally come to conclusions.

Then, instead of producing a written report as is required of other committees, standing committee members meet with upper levels of DoD management to brief them on the issue at hand.

"This direct involvement is the neatest thing about a position like this," Slezak says. "We work at a strategic level and make sure that people who make policy are kept up to date with current technology."