Laura Freeman named deputy director of the Virginia Tech National Security Institute
Laura Freeman has been named the inaugural deputy director of the Virginia Tech National Security Institute. As deputy director, Freeman assists Eric Paterson, executive director of the institute, in continuing the institute’s trajectory for growth and maximizing its impact on the university and the country.
“As a data scientist with deep experience in the defense and intelligence communities, Laura Freeman brings extensive technical expertise to the executive leadership team of the institute,” Paterson said. “Dr. Freeman is an immediate asset as we continue growing the institute and work broadly across the university. With Arlington and Blacksburg facilities, I am excited that we have a leadership team that can effectively support the university and our employees, students, and sponsors in both locations.”
Freeman has been the director of the Intelligent Systems Division of the National Security Institute since its inception, where she led research addressing critical challenges in national security by leveraging data science, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
In addition to her new position, Freeman maintains current roles as assistant dean of research for the College of Science in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area and research associate professor in the Department of Statistics.
“Hearing about the concept of a new national security institute at Virginia Tech was what encouraged me to take the leap from my previous role at the Institute for Defense Analyses in the first place,” Freeman said. “Now, I am extremely excited for the opportunity to serve as the deputy director.”
Virginia Tech announced the formation of the Virginia Tech National Security Institute in 2021, aspiring to become the nation's preeminent academic organization at the nexus of interdisciplinary research, technology, policy, and talent development to advance national security. The institute houses the Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology, which serves as the hub for national security-focused experiential student learning and workforce development at the university.
Freeman is eager to expand the National Security Institute’s efforts to diversify as a workplace and collaboration space for the national security talent pipeline.
“Today’s national security challenges require a just, inclusive, and diverse workforce,” Freeman said. “Encouraging diversity increases the perspectives that we can leverage to solve the problems faced by a modern national security apparatus. To do that, the institute actively engages and supports equality, inclusion, and diversity, while providing a work environment that accommodates all types of employee circumstances and recruits from a diverse range of backgrounds.”
The National Security Institute is one of the many vessels of which Virginia Tech prepares students for future careers in the intelligence and defense communities, and Freeman has been a longtime leader in the space.
Freeman served as the Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology’s Intelligent Systems Division director prior to the establishment of the National Security Institute. The Hume Center’s education and outreach programs provide opportunities for students to be engaged in national security through mentoring, internships, scholarships, and workforce development programs to give students experience with addressing the key challenges professionals are likely to face when entering federal service. She initially joined the Hume Center in 2019 as the associate director of the Intelligent Systems Lab.
Within the Hume Center, Freeman is a faculty adviser for the Deloitte Graduate Student Research Program on Artificial Intelligence, which prepares graduate students for artificial intelligence careers by equipping them with hands-on research experience and enhanced professional and technical skills through direct access to Deloitte professionals.
She is principal investigator for the U.S. Cyber Command Cyber Leadership Development Program — a result of a $1.5 million award from the Department of Defense to fuel workforce development in cybersecurity.
Funded by the Department of Defense and directed by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Virginia Tech is one of core institutions leading the new Acquisition Innovation and Research Center. Freeman is on the executive team, bringing together higher education expertise to increase efficiency in the U.S. Defense Acquisition System to accompany the expansion of defense technology.
Also a researcher with the Virginia Tech-led Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI), Freeman’s research focuses on artificial intelligence assurance and developing new methods for the testing and evaluation of emerging system technologies, enabling their adoption. CCI connects regional nodes across the commonwealth, each led by an institution of higher education, which are designed to be vibrant centers of research, learning, and innovation tailored to their local ecosystem. This summer, Freeman will engage with students across the commonwealth as an instructor for the CCI Cyber Camp.
Aside from the university’s existing programs that focus on developing our student body to be prepared national security professionals, Freeman believes Virginia Tech also has a unique culture that makes Virginia Tech a compelling leader in creating a talent pipeline to the national security space.
“Reflected in our motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), we have a strong culture of service at this university with everything we do,” Freeman said. “An ingrained service mentality is core for supporting our national security, and our students who aim to work in national security after graduation have already internalized this mindset, on top of receiving profound knowledge and experience in their classes, research, and workforce development opportunities.”
Prior to joining Virginia Tech, Freeman was the assistant director of the Operational Evaluation Division at the Institute for Defense Analyses from 2010 to 2019, where she led an interdisciplinary team to design tests and conducted statistical analyses for programs of national importance, such as weapons, aircrafts, and undersea warfare systems. Freeman says this role is where she first discovered her passion for her specific research expertise.
Freeman became the acting senior technical advisor for Director Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) in 2018. In this role, Freeman provided leadership, advice, and counsel on technical aspects of testing military systems, reviewing test strategies, plans, and reports from all major defense systems.
Throughout her career, Freeman has received numerous awards for her research and contributions in test and evaluation as it relates to the national security field, including four awards from the International Test and Evaluation Association and three from the Institute for Defense Analyses.
Freeman is a member of the National Defense Industrial Association and the American Statistical Association. She is a member of the International Test and Evaluation Association (ITEA), where she additionally serves as the Editor-and-Chief of the ITEA journal. Additionally, she serves on the Technical Management Committee for Technometrics and previously served on editorial boards for Quality Engineering and Quality Reliability Engineering International.
Freeman is a founding organizer of DATAWorks (Defense and Aerospace Test and Analysis Workshop), a workshop for government agencies to share new methods, provide training, and share best practices of statistical approaches to test design and data analysis in the fields of defense and aerospace.
Freeman earned three degrees from Virginia Tech: a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering with a minor in mathematics in 2005; and a master’s degree and Ph.D., both in statistics, in 2006 and 2010, respectively.