About ARL

The Applied Research Laboratory at Penn State

is an integral part of one of the leading research universities in the nation. Reporting directly to Penn State’s Senior Vice President for Research, ARL conducts collaborative research and academic engagement across the breadth of the University’s colleges.

For more than 75 years, ARL has addressed critical challenges facing our nation. We focus on the innovation, maturation, and implementation of new technologies in defense, national security, economic competitiveness, and quality of life. We function as trusted partners to our sponsors, taking a mission-focused, strategic approach to everything we do.

As a critical part of Penn State, ARL advances the University’s mission by preparing and inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers. Our mentorship and student outreach programs have enriched the lives of students from high school through graduate school. We provide guidance and hands-on learning opportunities with some of the nation’s best and brightest research professionals.


Celebrating more than 75 years of excellence

ARL (originally the Ordnance Research Laboratory) was established at Penn State in 1945 at the request of the U.S. Navy. Today, more than half of our research portfolio enables capabilities above the ocean’s surface. ARL’s research portfolio has evolved over time to meet the needs of our defense, intelligence, and homeland security sponsors.

ARL’s research teams perform basic scientific exploration, proof of principal/proof of concept experimentation, applied research and development, rapid prototyping, and operational support for a sponsor base spanning all military services, much of the extended U.S. national security community, and other government agencies. To accomplish our mission, ARL partners with industry on many of our programs, speeding technology maturation and driving new capabilities to the field. ARL also serves as an integral part of Penn State’s educational mission by advising students, teaching classes, and collaborating with faculty to advance the University’s larger academic goals.

Learn more about our achievements over the past year. ARL’s 2023 Annual Report is now available for review.

Allan Sonsteby

Executive Director

ARL is a Department of Defense (DoD) designated University Affiliated Research Center (UARC)

As a UARC, ARL provides or maintains DoD essential engineering, research, and/or development capabilities defined as core. Initiated by the U.S. Navy, we proudly support all of the U.S. Armed Forces and other government agencies.

We strive to embody a culture of scientific discovery and consistently leverage our agility to adapt to evolving mission needs.

Through independent exploration, sponsored research and development, and collaboration with partners in academia, government, and industry, ARL’s highly skilled scientists and engineers execute a broad research portfolio that addresses national security needs from the ocean floor to geosynchronous orbit.

Our research portfolio has evolved over 75 years to encompass more capabilities and competencies than ever before.

Our Values

As part of Penn State, we champion the University’s core values and strive to embody its mission of teaching, research, and public service with pride.


We act with integrity and honesty in accordance with the highest academic, professional, and ethical standards.


We respect and honor the dignity of each person, embrace civil discourse, and foster a diverse and inclusive community.


We act responsibly, and we are accountable for our decisions, actions, and their consequences.


We seek and create new knowledge and understanding, and foster creativity and innovation, for the benefit of our communities, society, and the environment.


We strive for excellence in all our endeavors as individuals, an institution, and a leader in higher education.


We work together for the betterment of our University, the communities we serve, and the world.

ARL is committed to our employee’s health and well-being by supporting Penn State initiatives, local health officials, and government leaders in preventing COVID-19 in the workplace.

Our employees whose work or research can be done remotely, from home, are doing so. We have also given the opportunity of a flexible work schedule to assist our employees who have other obligations to consider. For those whose work or research requires them to be in our laboratories, offices, or on campus, we are following all protocols necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including mandatory mask training, strict safety procedures, and a network of contacts for reporting any ill-feeling symptoms.

As new employees join our workforce, the above guidelines apply. 

You can be confident that we will maintain our vigilant enforcement of all COVID-19 protocols in our workplace to ensure the health and safety of everyone.

Our strength comes from our people… we are a diverse group of professionals who hail from all over this great Nation, with all kinds of experience and expertise. As a team, we will get through this together with patience, diligence, vigilance, and resilience.