Alvin L. Smith II, PhD, PMP

Manager, Planetary Protection Center of Excellence


Dr. Alvin L. Smith is the Manager for Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Planetary Protection Center of Excellence (CoE) and the JPL Backward Planetary Protection Lead for Mars Sample Return. In these roles he provides scientific oversight to several research & development projects to meet stringent engineering requirements for planetary protection, as well as program management for training programs, university outreach, and interagency collaborations. His contributions have been instrumental in planning flight implementation for Mars 2020 (Perserverance rover), Europa Clipper, and the Mars Sample Return campaign, to include planning for the Mars Sample Receiving Facility. Alvin joined JPL after spending over 17 years as a researcher in high containment laboratories and as a consultant as a biodefense subject matter expert (SME) and focusing on the development of medical countermeasures and biodetection capabilities for HIV, human smallpox, Ebola, and other potential biological weapons. Alvin’s expertise in chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats has been leveraged by numerous government agencies including Congress, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and the intelligence community.

Alvin holds a doctorate in Medical Microbiology from Howard University and a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Talladega College. He is also a certified Project Management Professional.

Research Interests

  • Biodetection in conjunction with microbial high-containment issues

  • Bacterial evolution in extreme environments

  • Microbial pathogenicity and host interactions

  • Low biomass sampling and bioinformatics

Professional Experience

Manager, Planetary Protection Architect, Technical Staff, Spacecraft Mechanical Engineering, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), November 2017 - Present.

Adjunct Microbiology Professor, Prince George's Community College, January 2014 - December 2017.

Principal Microbiologist, Program Manager, Noblis, December 2011 - November 2017.

Lead Scientist/Technical Director, Joint Program Executive Office-Chemical Biological Defense, Goldbelt Raven, February 2010 - December 2011.


2002-2007, PhD, Microbiology, Howard University.

1997-2001, BS, Biology, Talladega College.

Selected Awards

2021 – JPL Voyager Award - For outstanding support of Mars Returned Sample Handling through your efforts on the RAMA Planning Team.

2020 – JPL Voyager Award – Collaborative Leadership for HBCU Outreach

2013, Noblis Technology Leadership Award

2009, IGCC Public Policy and Biological Threats Fellowship Award

2005, AIDS Vaccine 2005 Conference Travel Grant

2004, The Minority Trainee Research Forum 2004 National Abstract Competition Aces of Diamonds Award

2000 & 2001, WHO’s WHO Among American Colleges and Universities Award

2000 - 2001, UNCF/Merck Science Initiative Scholarship/Fellowship Award

1998 – 2000, National Collegiate Natural Sciences Award

1998 – 2001, Academic Achievement Academy All American Scholar Award

Selected Publications

Craven, Emily, Martell Winters, Alvin L. Smith, Erin Lalime, Rocco Mancinelli, Brian Shirey, Wayne Schubert, Andrew Schuerger, Mariko Burgin, and Emily P. Seto. 2021. “Biological Safety in the Context of Backward Planetary Protection and Mars Sample Return: Conclusions from the Sterilization Working Group.” International Journal of Astrobiology 20 (1): 1–28.

Alvin L. Smith, Lakshmanan Ganesh, Kwanyee Leung, Jenny Jongstra-Bilen, Jan Jongstra, and Gary J. Nabel, Leukocyte-specific Protein 1 Interacts with DC-SIGN and Mediates Transport of Human Immunodeficiency Virus to the Proteasome in Dendritic Cells. Journal of Experimental Medicine. 2007 Feb 19;204(2):421-30.

Alvin L. Smith, Jan Jongstra, and Gary J. Nabel, KSR-1 and other MAP kinases Interact with Leukocyte-specific Protein 1 to Mediate Transport of Human Immunodeficiency Virus to the Proteasome in Dendritic Cells 2011 (in progress)

Alvin L. Smith, Sharon Altmann, Julie Dyall, Reed Johnson, Peter B. Jahrling, Jason Paragas, Joseph E. Blaney, Inhibition of cowpox virus and monkeypox virus infection by mitoxantrone. Antiviral Research. 2011 Dec 11 [Epub ahead of print]

Smith AL, Johnson RF, Wachter L, St. Claire M, Moyer R, Rice AD, McFadden G, Paragas JP, and Jahrling PB, Intrabronchial Inoculation of Cynomolgus Macaques with Cowpox Virus. Journal of General Virology. 2012 Jan;93(Pt 1):159-64. Epub 2011 Sep 21

Reed F. Johnson, Julie Dyall, Daniel Ragland, Louis Huzella, Alvin L. Smith, Russell Byrum, Catherine Jett, Marisa St. Claire, Jason Paragas, Joseph E. Blaney, and Peter B. Jahrling, Comparative Analysis of Monkeypox Virus Infection of Cynomolgus Macaques by the Intravenous or Intrabronchial Inoculation Route. Journal of Virology. 2011 Mar;85(5):2112-25. Epub 2010 Dec 8

Reed F. Johnson, Srikanth Yellayi, Jennifer A. Cann, Anthony Johnson, Alvin L. Smith, Jason Paragas, Peter B. Jahrling, and Joseph E. Blaney, Cowpox virus infection of cynomolgus macaques as a model of hemorrhagic smallpox. Virology. 2011 Sep 30;418(2):102-12. Epub 2011 Aug 15

CL#: 17-1953, 18-1585

Site Manager: Alvin Smith

Webmaster: James Ray

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