Tell us about your background. How did you end up working with the FBI? What did you do previously?
Prior to the FBI I served as an Infantry Officer in the US Marine Corps. I received my commission as an Officer after graduating from the US Naval Academy in 1992. At the Naval Academy I earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Political Science. The Naval Academy is a technically oriented school that requires a core curriculum of math and science, which is why my degree is a Bachelors of Science degree.
What do you think is the coolest, or most interesting, part of your job? What does a typical day look like?
I am the WMD Coordinator for the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Division. My job boils down to preventing WMD terrorism. My job is unique because I am at the cross roads of many disciplines. I work with cops, firemen, scientists, the military, industry professionals, academia and anyone else who has anything to do with chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear materials.
I don’t have a typical day. My work can generally be divided into four categories: threat assessment/response, training, outreach, and administrative. We are constantly assessing potential WMD threats. This includes everything from overt threats to reports of suspicious activity. The FBI investigates every threat that is reported.
In the WMD field we study and train a lot. I am constantly attending classes, trainings and participating in exercises. In the WMD field you can never know enough or be prepared enough.
Our outreach efforts are designed to develop tripwires that will provide early warning of a potential WMD plot. We work had to develop response protocols that allow for quick and efficient assessment and adjudication of WMD threats. As part of our outreach efforts I have presented at counter proliferation courses held in Kosovo and Ghana.
Between all of our other activities come the administrative requirements of the program.
Were there any films or television shows that sparked your interest in science when you were growing up? What were your favorites? What do you watch now?
As a kid I loved science fiction movies and television. Star Trek, Star Wars, and the Twilight Zone were among my favorites. I don’t watch much television now, but I love watching movies.
Going to the movie theater is one of my favorite pastimes. I travel a lot and look forward to the time on the plane when watch movies on my iPad.
How important is it that the audience sees science portrayed accurately in film and television?
The accurate portrayal of science in film and television is critical. The science that supports a storyline is the backbone and foundation of that storyline. If the science isn’t accurate then the storyline suffers.
I quickly lose interest in a plot that I believe to be technically not feasible. Additionally movies and television have an enormous impact on our society. It’s important that the public sees accurate scientific concepts, which can lead to a better understanding of our world.
What has Hollywood done right and what has it done wrong in portraying what it’s like to work for the FBI?
Working for the FBI is interesting and challenging, rarely is there a dull moment. Much of our work is high stakes work, particularly when it comes to national security, counter terrorism and major criminal enterprises. Hollywood does a great job of portraying the seriousness of the FBI’s mission.
Hollywood does tend to make the job seem much easier than it is. In Hollywood, cases are solved quickly and information is immediately available, that’s certainly not the case in real life.
Is there a storyline you would like to see in a TV show or movie that involves your work that hasn’t yet been covered?|
I work Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and love seeing WMD storylines. Most WMD storylines are about a bad guy who wants to acquire or use a Weapon of Mass Destruction. I’d like to see a storyline about the teams and people who work around the world to prevent the proliferation of WMD’s. This storyline could focus on the efforts to hunt for and secure illicit material or it could be about the teams and people who respond to WMD threats and incidents.
What role can the entertainment industry play in encouraging more young people to study science and engineering?
On the surface, science and engineering may seem boring to some people. The entertainment industry can show young people how science and engineering play a vital role in our society and can lead to fun and interesting careers.
How did you first become involved with the Science and Entertainment Exchange?
I became involved with the Science Exchange when I was asked to participate in a panel discussion with other professionals who work in the WMD field.
What have you enjoyed most about working with the Exchange? Any particularly memorable or favorite moments?
I have really enjoyed the opportunities to talk with writers, directors and others who are involved in the production of television and movies. I have no connections to Hollywood, but have been asked on several occasions to provide some input for WMD storylines.
I’ve been very impressed at the thought and energy that goes in behind the scenes to produce television and movies.
Anything else you would like to add?
Most Americans have never met an FBI Agent. Their only exposure to the FBI is through the news and Hollywood. I appreciate when the FBI and our mission is represented well. It makes a difference!