Dr. Alvin Smith

TALLADEGA, AL – Talladega College graduate Dr. Alvin Smith, manager of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA JPL) Planetary Protection Center of Excellence and Backward Planetary Protection Lead for Mars Sample Return, credits Talladega for providing the foundation that helped him excel in science.

“Talladega College really shaped my first understanding of the scientist, individually and collectively, that I wanted to become. The sense of family and community fostered a sense of belonging you rarely find these days, rooted in historical black excellence,” said Dr. Smith. “It was this TC community that made the first investment, through scholarships and didactic scientific education, that truly launched my ambitions to the stars.”

Dr. Smith provides program management and scientific oversight to several research & development projects, training programs, university outreach, and interagency collaborations at NASA JPL at the California Institute of Technology. The JPL Planetary Portection Center of Excellence promotes and sustains the infrastructure of planetary protection at JPL while supporting NASA missions. JPL fosters a culture of intra and inter collaboration to meet evolving mission requirements. The Planetary Protection Center of Excellence ensures that its scientists and engineers are equipped with state-of-the-art technology, remain effectively trained, lead mission-related Research & Technology Development projects, and leverage leading government and industry advancements, so that they can better fulfill multi-mission needs. Dr. Smith joined JPL after spending over 16 years in consulting as a biodefense subject matter expert (SME) and researcher in high containment labs.

These experiences highlight his understanding of what it takes to conduct challenging biological studies, implement and lead successful scientific projects, and build lasting partnerships. His scientific contributions in immunology, infectious diseases, and animal models have aided the federal government in developing medical countermeasures and biodetection capabilities for human smallpox, Ebola, and other potential biological weapons. He is a past recipient of numerous awards and honors, including JPL’s Voyager Award, the Noblis Technology Leadership Award, and the IGCC (Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation) Public Policy and Biological Threats Fellowship Award.

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About Talladega College
Talladega College, Alabama’s first private historically black college, is consistently ranked among the best southeastern colleges and top HBCUs in the nation. It was founded in 1867 by two former slaves, William Savery and Thomas Tarrant, and is home of the renowned Hall Woodruff Amistad Murals. For more information, visit www.talladega.edu.