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People of SRP: Jan Vandenbrande

by SRP on February 13, 2023
A Passion for Technology

Technology has always fascinated Jan. As a child with an insatiable curiosity, he was always building and experimenting — whether it was mechanisms, chemistry, electricity, or rockets — mostly with catastrophic consequences. After surviving childhood, the natural fit was to pursue engineering. After receiving an engineering degree from the Vrije Universiteit van Brussel, Belgium, he was drawn into all the amazing things that computers could do, leading to a PhD in geometric reasoning from the University of Rochester.

Growing up, Jan lived in 10 different countries. He has an accent in every language and doesn't have a good answer for the question “Where are you from?”.

The Path to PARC

Jan’s entire career has been fixated on creating disruptive technologies. He initially focused on making computers reason at Unigraphics (now part of Siemens). He then pursued changing how Boeing designs and builds things. Following his time at Boeing, Jan managed a comprehensive portfolio to enable breakthrough capabilities as a Program Manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Today, he is the Head of Research at PARC, leading the research, development, and commercialization of disruptive technologies in cleantech, intelligent assistance and next generation production.

Ironically, one of his favorite subjects in college was a course on very large-scale integration (VLSI). The textbook on this pioneering work was written by Lynn Conway and Carver Mead, while Lynn Conway was at PARC, and funded through a DARPA program. Now being at PARC after DARPA, he feels like he has come full circle from where he started.

The best part of my job is working with amazing people who are moving into the future with a spirit of innovation.

Jan Vandenbrande, Head of Research, Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)

An Enthusiastic PARC Leader

PARC is an amazing place. How we all currently use a computer came out of PARC: personal computing (windows, WYSIWIG, MSWord); networking (ethernet, WiFi); PostScript; Laser Printing; Object Oriented programming; Voice over IP; palm and tablet computing. Since being established in 1970, PARC has spawned a trillion US$ in businesses which includes products from Apple (MacIntosh), Adobe, and 3Com.

PARC is currently working on a number of breakthrough technologies, including approaches to radiate energy back into space and best-in-class carbon capture materials and processes to mitigate global warming. They are working on next generation augmented reality assistance systems that help perform physical tasks such as repairing airplanes or performing surgery and tools to democratize production to enable smaller firms and less experienced engineers to design and manufacture sophisticated products.

The diversity of ideas and backgrounds (they have over 20 nationalities) engages Jan’s curiosity and makes it an invigorating place to work.


To innovate you must try lots of things. This also means you fail — a lot.

Jan Vandenbrande, Head of Research, Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)


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