Dr. Edward G. Liszka
Penn State ‘65: BS Electrical Engineering
Penn State ‘67: MS Engineering Acoustics
Catholic University of America ’77: PhD Engineering Acoustics
Born in Pittsburgh, PA, grew up in New Castle, PA – Shenango High School
Tell me a little about yourself
I met my wife Jane while attending Penn State and we married in 1966, putting me one year away from my 50th anniversary (Congratulations!). I have three children, all of which are Penn State Grads. My son Edward is currently a practicing cardiologist at Hershey Medical Center, my daughter Heather is a Family Practitioner in Charleston, SC, and my daughter Adria was previously working as a computer scientist at both Westinghouse and Sandia but is now raising her three young children.
Why did you pick your studies and how did they benefit you?
In high school I particularly enjoyed my courses in math and science and I was proficient in them. Based upon perceived future job prospects I decided that engineering would be a good skill to pursue in college. I chose Penn State because of its outstanding programs in Engineering, and specifically Electrical Engineering because of interests in electronics. When I was graduating from Penn State, the country was at war and I wanted to do what I could to help. I was recruited to be an engineer for the Navy and I accepted the position. Because the field of Acoustics is critical to the Navy and scientists in this discipline were in high demand, I chose to pursue a graduate degree in engineering acoustics. Penn State was just beginning its graduate program in engineering acoustics at this time and the Navy offered me a fellowship to attend PSU and pursue a Masters Degree in Acoustics. These choices set the course for the rest of my career with the Navy and were rather critical for my success. After finishing my Masters degree I went on to work at the Bureau of Naval Weapons managing research programs in acoustics and its applications to undersea technology and systems. While in this position, I established research programs with various organizations and scientists around the country that were on the cutting edge so to speak. I recognized that my work would benefit, as well as my personal portfolio for potential future advancement, if I pursued an advanced degree in engineering acoustics. So with the support of the Navy I took classes in my free time to pursue a PhD.
How did you work your way to Director of ARL (Penn State Applied Research Lab)?
After finishing my PhD I continued to work for the Navy in positions of increasing responsibility. During this time I acted as a program manager, branch head, project officer for collaborations with Navies of foreign countries, and technical director of a major undersea weapons development program. After being with the Navy for about 20 years I decided to start looking for the next step in my career. At this point I saw there was an opening for the associate director position at ARL. I was selected for this position in 1984 and proceeded to develop and manage programs that addressed critical Navy needs for undersea technologies. In early 2001, I was offered a position with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) as their Chief Scientist and Research and Technology Director as a visiting scientist. During that time the September 200I attack occurred and I was able to help the ONR restructure their research programs to focus on combatting terrorism. I remained with ONR until mid-2002 when I was selected to become the Director of ARL and Director of Defense Related Units at Penn State. I retired from that position in 2014. Currently, I am still doing some consulting work for the Navy and the DoD on various programs.
What are some highlights from your career?
I would say the highlight of my career has been the outstanding people with whom I have had the privilege to work, and together we have made many significant accomplishments for our National Defense. For me, the recognition that I received for this work through the award of the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service through the Navy, the highest such award given to a civilian, is the culmination of my career. Some of the specific career highlights for which I am proud are the following. From my time at Penn State, I would include being the first graduate from Penn State’s Graduate Program in Engineering Acoustics. This program just recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and has awarded 669 graduate degrees to date. A highlight of my work with the Navy would be acting as the Technical Director for the Mark 50 Torpedo program. This development significantly pushed the state of the art and was very successful in the field. In addition to this, I would also consider working as the project manager for international collaborations for the US amongst allies in undersea weapons programs as another highlight from my career with the Navy. As I watched the fire consuming a part of the Pentagon from my ONR office, I was very pleased to help the ONR with introduction of new technologies for the war against terror in the post 9/11 era. I am very proud of the accomplishments of the Applied Research Laboratory, which continues to thrive. We brought forth many innovations during my time there. One of the most recent innovations is the development of an anti-torpedo torpedo, used to protect ships by neutralizing an attacking torpedo. In addition, the role of ARL in support of our submarine fleet has been pivotal for the Navy.
Any advice for current members?
In general do the best you can in whatever you do. Sounds a bit trite, but this simple rule will carry you a long way. While still in college, be sure to do well in your courses, but more importantly, learn the material from the courses and know it well. All further learning will be dependent upon the things you learn in your college career. Never stop the process of learning new things, whether this be through stretch assignments or advanced degrees. In a professional setting be sure to be viewed as someone who will go the extra mile and will always be accountable to get the job done. This is particularly appreciated by the managers above you and will pay you dividends in future assignments and advancement. Treat fellow workers with the highest level of respect as their achievement begets your achievement. Be a team player and help others when feasible, this signifies leadership potential. Finally, don’t be afraid to take on leadership positions, whether in the fraternity, in your college, or in the workplace, as these will prepare you well for career advancement.