Page Stoutland is NTI’s Vice President for Scientific and Technical Affairs. He focuses on strengthening cybersecurity for nuclear weapons systems and at nuclear facilities and addressing the impact of new and emerging technologies on NTI’s mission. Prior to joining NTI, Stoutland spent 10 years at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) where he held a number of senior positions and was instrumental in developing and leading LLNL's programs in support of the post-9/11 homeland security effort. He holds a bachelor's degree from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota and a doctorate in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. Page sat down with NTI's Caitlyn Collett for the latest in Atomic Pulse's "Get to Know NTI" series.
Before joining NTI, you worked at several national laboratories. What was your favorite project while working in labs?
I think some of the more interesting projects were when I first started at Los Alamos National Laboratory at the beginning of my career. We built an apparatus that was able to do what's called picosecond infrared spectroscopy – meaning we were able to measure very short timeframe reaction dynamics.
We applied that to some biological molecules of interest, as well as to understand fast reaction dynamics in polymer films that was of relevance to imaging technology – sort of next-generation laser printers. The combination of building the apparatus and the actual technical work was fun and interesting and something that I certainly missed as I moved onto other assignments.
What inspired you to move from that kind of research work to policy?
When I was at Los Alamos, I was doing some basic science, but it was evident to me that at a national laboratory the main focus was national security work. Because I'm a chemist, I became interested in how we might address chemical and biological issues in the realm of national security.
I had the opportunity to come back to Washington to assist in a newly formed program that was working to develop chemical and biological defense technologies. It was a one-year assignment that turned into a four-year assignment, and that was my introduction to the Washington world and policy.
You must have discussed a lot of important issues during those assignments. What do you think is the greatest threat facing the world today?
I'm very concerned about cyber threats that can affect infrastructure as well as nuclear facilities. That's certainly something we think about here at NTI.
In addition, I'm increasingly concerned about how information can manipulate public opinion, whether it be through cyberattacks or information attacks, as we've seen in the most recent election. I think that's a very concerning development and I don't know how we're ever going to completely solve that problem. I think the spread of information technology and malevolent uses of such technology is really concerning looking forward.
What do you think that people can do as individuals to kind of like mitigate that threat?
Yes, I don't know other than --
Staying off Facebook?
Yes. I think we have to get back to thinking about how facts
matter and considering the reputation of the media outlets that we receive our
information from. Whether it's The New
York Times or elsewhere, readers should be curious about whether an outlet has
a history of good journalism, how their people are curating and documenting it,
and what journalists are referencing. Maybe there we can get some traction.