ASPIRE PhD Career Stories: Jennifer S. Sparks, PhD
Come hear more about a career in defense/intelligence. Find out from Dr. Jennifer Sparks about what her role entails and how you can use your PhD in this area. Check out Dr. Sparks bio below and be sure to register for this event.
Dr. Jennifer Sparks works for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) as a Division Program Manager in the Research and Development Directorate (RD). Within RD, she supports the Chemical and Biological Technologies Department’s Advanced and Emerging Threats Division. She is responsible for overseeing all division business practices, building partnerships with the Intelligence Community, the Interagency (IA), international partners, and with performers. She also advises the Division Chief on the strategic development of Division portfolios. She joined DTRA in January 2017.
Prior to working for DTRA, Dr. Sparks worked for Engility, Inc. as the Chief Scientific Advisor for a U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Special Mission Unit. She advised the Unit Commander on scientific and technical priorities in line with the overall mission and goals of the organization, to include direct support to CBRN mission planners and deployed personnel. She helped manage several chemical and biological science and technology (S&T) research initiatives and initiated planning for future programs, including facilitating the establishment of an S&T division focused on driving innovation within the organization. She routinely engaged with DoD, DOE, IA, private industry, and academia on a variety of CBRN-related R&D projects. She also led engagements with foreign partner S&T organizations and helped establish joint R&D initiatives.
Prior to working for Engility, Inc., Dr. Sparks worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) as the WMD Team Lead for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) Directorate for Intelligence. She was selected to be the WMD Lead for a National Crisis Management Response element and was awarded the Joint Civilian Service Commendation Award for her exceptional performance. Prior to her time at the Pentagon, she worked at DIA’s Defense Counterproliferation Office (DCP) as the senior Intelligence Analyst for the Russia CBW team, leading projects related to chemical, biological, and biosecurity threats. She worked closely with national labs, sponsoring research and development work related to biological threats. She was awarded the National Intelligence Professional Award for directing an interagency team of approximately 20 analysts on a project of significant national security interest. Dr. Sparks was also the Intelligence Community lead for several intelligence exchanges with foreign partners, organizing numerous international conferences on behalf of the U.S.
Dr. Sparks has a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from Vanderbilt University and a BS in Chemistry from Mary Baldwin College. During graduate school, her research focused on SARS coronavirus virus-host interactions.