A few years ago, Janet Marroquin Pineda answered discussion questions on emerging infectious diseases, biodefense strategy, and dual-use technology for homework. Now, she now answers these questions in the workplace as a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) subject matter expert and thought leader within the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA).
Marroquin Pineda, a 2019 graduate of the Schar School of Policy and Government’s Master of Biodefense program and current Schar School biodefense doctoral student, was recently awarded the 2022 David S. C. Chu Award for Excellence in Research at IDA. The award is presented annually to a research associate who has made outstanding analytic contributions in support of IDA’s mission to answer the most challenging U.S. security and science policy questions with objective analysis.
When Marroquin Pineda started at IDA in 2018 as a summer research associate, her research centered on a traditional, agent-based biological threats. As the Department of Defense shifts from an agent-specific biodefense strategy to one focused on emerging threats and biotechnology more broadly, Marroquin Pineda has been on the forefront of supporting this change within IDA. Her analytical leadership, technical skills, and extensive network across the biotechnology community have provided critical support to growing and maintaining a CBRN portfolio for IDA.
“For an early career position, having an award of that magnitude was very confidence boosting and made me feel valued at my company,” she said.
IDA is a private, nonprofit corporation based in Alexandria, Virginia, that manages three Federally Funded Research and a Development Centers (FFRDCs). U.S. government sponsors rely on IDA’s FFRDCs for dispassionate, fact-based, and scientifically rigorous research and advice.
Marroquin Pineda’s time in the biodefense program at Mason helped her build connections with students and faculty, she said.
“Mason has a really great graduate school faculty, especially in the Schar School. I was very impressed as a master’s student by the quality of support that they offered in developing analytical skills,” she said. “The expectations were high but there were ways to ask for help and collaborate with students. They didn’t just have textbook knowledge but also field experience."
Marroquin Pineda attributes much of her success to her young son, Noah.
“My son has been a grounding force throughout my graduate studies and is very much a big part of my success and source of inspiration and strength,” she said. “One of the wonderful traits of the biodefense program has been the diversity in the life experiences of the student population, which I feel I have been able to enrich further as a single mother of color. I am very fortunate to have a strong and flexible support system both in my program and at work that have made balancing a career and pursuing a PhD possible, and furthermore, have helped me realize my potential while fostering intellectual growth.
“As grateful as I am to have my work recognized in my program and at IDA though, I am most proud to share my accomplishments with Noah.”