Arati Prabhakar was named as an inaugural awardee of UP’s search for extraordinary leaders in March 2022. UP supported Arati as she was building a new social innovation nonprofit organization called Actuate with the goal of adapting the DARPA model to address critical societal challenges. Program areas included issues such as mitigating climate change and ensuring just and effective democracy. You can read more about Arati and the original vision for Actuate here.
One of our motivations for the original award was to invest in Arati to further leverage Actuate’s model to identify extraordinary leaders. In addition to being compelled by the programs Actuate was developing, we saw the award as an opportunity to explore a different approach of finding great people we may want to support. We were particularly impressed with two of the Program Managers Arati hired, Wade Shen and Lara Pierpoint.
Wade spent 5 years as a Program Manager at DARPA where he oversaw 10 data science and machine learning programs. He was also a Research Manager at MIT Lincoln Laboratory and worked in the private sector as the Founder and CTO of a mobile speech recognition startup. Over his career, he has served in leadership roles such as the chair of Lincoln Laboratory's Advanced Concept Committee, on DARPA's Information Science and Technology (ISAT) study group, and as the US technical representative for NATO's speech and language processing study groups. Wade was leading Actuate’s Democracy work.
Lara left her role at Fortune 100 energy company Exelon, where she led the Corporate Strategy team, to join Actuate. She has worked in government as Director of the Office of Energy Supply Security at the Department of Energy, was an AAAS Congressional Science and Engineering Fellow for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and has a PhD in Engineering Systems and S.M.s in Nuclear Science and Engineering and Technology and Policy from MIT. She was leading Actuate’s Climate work.
Following our award, Arati was nominated for the Director of the White House Office for Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and was confirmed for the position in July 2022. After discussions with the team, we agreed to use Arati’s award to continue supporting Wade and Lara’s work and felt that it affirmed our original intent of investing in exceptional leaders. Wade has since been recruited to join the federal government to help guide R&D and policy efforts that could improve societal outcomes. Lara merged her climate work with the Prime Coalition, and is now furthering Actuate Climate’s mission in her post as the Director of Prime’s Early Climate Infrastructure program. Learn more about this work here.