Voices from DARPA
Episode 39: The What-if Chemist
In this episode of the Voices from DARPA podcast, Seth Cohen, a program manager since 2019 in the agency’s Biological Technologies Office, takes listeners on a scientific journey that began with childhood fossil-hunting forays with his biology-teacher dad and is unfolding now in his oversight of three ambitious programs that center on some of humanity’s most pressing needs. Two of these take on the relentlessly evolving public-health threats that viral and bacterial pathogens pose. Another program is immersed in the challenge of the increasing scarcity of potable water. If Seth has it his way, these programs will deliver 1) a new strategy for fighting viral infections; 2) a powerful anti-bacterial framework that will recruit our bodies’ home-made, protective molecular means to stave off the emerging public-health catastrophe of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections; and 3) technologies for extracting water from the atmosphere in regions where water is scarce. Seth also shares his government-service experiences by which he has come to know the value of science policy in moving society toward badly-needed solutions. He finishes his story with a pitch to graduate students and others in the innovation ecosystems to embrace exciting and consequential roles in the government R&D landscape that they might not know about, including ones at DARPA. Says Seth in support of that advice, “DARPA has been…one of the best places I could ever imagine working.” When he is not uncovering new marvels of cellular chemistry or opening pathways to new technologies, Seth, a fan and amateur historian of muscle cars, just might be seen tooling around in his 1963 Corvette Stingray convertible.