ARL West hires its first employee, meet Dr. Benjamin T. Files

February 19, 2016

By Joyce M. Conant, ARL Public Affairs

Story Highlights

  • ARL established an agreement with the University of Southern California to provide nearly 22,000 sq. ft. in support of up to 70 Army personnel and focus initially on research between USC's Institute for Creative Technologies and ARL
  • This is the first collaboration center located near Los Angeles in an area being called Silicon Beach, which is home to more than 500 tech startup companies
  • Dr. Benjamin T. Files is the first of the locally recruited scientists, students, and representatives from other Army organizations hired to work at ARL West

ARL West, part of the Open Campus initiative, is an effort to co-locate Army research and development personnel on the West Coast in order to gain access to subject matter experts and technical centers and universities not well represented on the East Coast. ARL West draws from existing large regional talent pools and establishes areas for collaborative research in Army relevant technology sectors. Closer collaboration with universities, start-ups and established companies working in simulation and training, electronics, information science, intelligent systems, human-system interaction, etc. are expected to follow with the ultimate goal of direct benefit to the Soldier. This ensures our nation's future strength and competitiveness in critical scientific engineering and creative fields.

ARL established an agreement with the University of Southern California to provide nearly 22,000 sq. ft. in support of up to 70 Army personnel and focus initially on research between USC's Institute for Creative Technologies and ARL. This is the first collaboration center located near Los Angeles in an area being called Silicon Beach, which is home to more than 500 tech startup companies to include Google, Yahoo!, YouTube, BuzzFeed, AOL, EdgeCast Networks, MySpace, Netflix and Riot Games. In addition, the LA area is one of the largest regions for graduating engineers in the country.

Dr. Benjamin T. Files was hired as an ARL West employee and arrived in January, he is the first of the locally recruited scientists, students, and representatives from other Army organizations. Although Files' official job title is biologist, he introduces himself as a neuroscientist.

Meet Dr. Benjamin T. Files

What date were you hired to begin working at ARL?

I was hired December 28, 2015, but I worked at Aberdeen Proving Ground for about four weeks before I moved out to ARL West; my first day here was January 25, 2016.

Who is your supervisor?

My supervisor is Dr. Kaleb McDowell. He's the currently acting branch chief of the Real-World Soldier Quantification Branch. He's also the acting division chief for the Future Soldier Technology division of the Human Research and Engineering Directorate.

What job were you hired for at ARL?

I was hired to continue my post-doctoral work on human/robot teaming in information variable environments, and to develop new projects around measuring, predicting, and affecting human effectiveness in dynamic, real-world environments.

How did you hear about ARL West?

I first heard about ARL West at a town hall meeting with Dr. Russell. Later, when I was part way through the civilian hiring process (between background check and offer letter), I heard from Kaleb that HRED was looking for volunteers to be stationed out at ARL West. I talked to colleagues and mentors about the opportunity, and decided it would be a good fit for me. Through some heroic efforts by the HRED administrative staff and management, I was able to be officially assigned to ARL West.

What do you hope to accomplish with your research?

I hope to continue to carry out basic research that uncovers fundamental principles linking multi-modal, multi-timescale observations to current and future human performance and effectiveness. I see this research as building towards supporting and expanding the effectiveness of the Warfighter of the future.

What are your thoughts about ARL's Open Campus concept?

I think Open Campus is critical to the ongoing success of ARL. Research is increasingly collaborative and interdisciplinary. I see fostering collaboration between ARL and the research and tech institutions in the greater Los Angeles area to be a central goal of ARL West, and Open Campus enables frictionless collaboration opportunities.

Where are you from originally?

I'm a Californian. I grew up in the San Francisco bay area, got my bachelor's at UC Berkeley and my Ph.D. at the University of Southern California. I enjoyed my time as a post-doc in Maryland, but it is good to be back in my home state.

What is your research background?

During and immediately after college I worked in vision science labs, helping to create tools for visual psychophysics at the Neurometrics institute under Dr. Thom Carney and working as a lab manager in the visual processing lab under Dr. Stanley Klein. I went to graduate school at the University of Southern California Neuroscience Graduate Program expecting to stick with vision science, but I became interested in human perception more generally.

I worked on multisensory perception and visual speech perception (i.e. lip-reading) using behavioral testing and EEG to learn about the boundaries of human performance in the Communication Neuroscience Lab at the House Research Institute under Dr. Lynne Bernstein. Near the end of my graduate training, I had an opportunity to work with a person with congenital achiasma, a very rare and poorly understood visual abnormality to carry out some experiments into the deep flexibility of the human visual system in the Laboratory for Functional and Computational Vision at USC under Dr. Bosco Tjan.

After a brief stint as a faculty lab instructor, I began my postdoctoral work at APG. There, I worked with the now-reorganized Translational Neuroscience Branch to investigate predicting human performance on perceptual tasks as well as estimating human performance to more effectively integrate human input with automated systems.

What are you most excited about working at ARL?

I'm excited about ARL's commitment to high-risk, cutting edge research to support the US Warfighter.

What does it mean to you having an offsite ARL West location there?

I'm most excited about the opportunities to more easily and spontaneously collaborate with folks at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, researchers at the many universities in the region, and with folks in the burgeoning tech scene here.

Do you believe this will better support the mission of ARL?

Absolutely. As amazing as ARL is, we can't go it alone. With ARL's concentration of facilities and personnel around the D.C. area, a lot of collaboration and outreach efforts are focused there as well. On the other hand, there have been some great collaborations already with labs and people all over the globe. I believe that ARL West will enable more outreach and collaboration opportunities here in Southern California.

What do you like to do outside of the office? Hobbies?

I'm a bit of a foodie. My wife and I love to cook together, and we like going out and trying everything from hip new sausage stands to fancy Korean cuisine. I'm also a gamer, enjoying both computer and board games with friends and family.

Married? Children?

My wife, Nikki and I have been married for 7 years. We are expecting our first child in March.

 

Last Update / Reviewed: February 19, 2016