Nuclear non-proliferation and zoonotic disease efforts wouldn’t seem to have obvious links. But Center for Homeland Defense and Security alum Michael Sharp has been at the forefront of both on a national and international basis, and at times has combined the two.
In the past several years, Sharp (Emergence Program cohort 1702 and Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program cohort 2101) has worked at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Laboratory (DOE-NL) complex where he currently serves as the Portfolio Manager for the U.S. Department of State; as a U.S.-funded expert with the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency at a laboratory in Vienna, Austria; with the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration, where he completed the Nuclear Graduate Fellowship Program; as a nuclear and radiological subject matter expert supporting the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency for the Baltics, Black Sea and the Balkan; as a biological security expert at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal Plant Health Inspection Service; and as a DoD contractor in Doha, Qatar, and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
Over the past decade, he has worked on everything from international nuclear and radiological smuggling, and detection and deterrence programs (including the areas of material security, detection, interdiction, consequence management, nuclear forensics, and attribution), to leveraging emerging technologies, including the use of radioactive isotopes to battle zoonotic diseases.
About a year ago, the nuclear non-proliferation specialist was appointed as the Department of State’s Portfolio Manager at ORNL focusing on international safeguards, and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear security, including U.N. treaty obligations, global nuclear security posture, and non-proliferation norms.
As part of that role, Sharp manages the White House initiative for responsible nuclear use, also known as the Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) program, essentially helping nations that are interested in acquiring small nuclear power reactors for clean energy use by developing standards and identifying optimal sites.
Sharp said this “has been an exciting time” at the DOE-NL, which is engaged in work on a range of emerging technologies including artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analysis to enhance detection capabilities, unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), and remote sensing.
While working at the IAEA’s Seibersdorf Laboratory, the only Category 2 nuclear facility in the United Nations, Sharp developed a strategic site-wide masterplan, including a nuclear application program teaching developing nations in the global south the use of radioactive isotopes to eradicate zoonotic diseases with the capacity to transmit from animals to humans under the Peaceful Use Initiative.
Before that, Sharp worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Services tracking epidemiological outbreaks involving animal and plant diseases, supporting the regulatory security of biologics, pathogens, and vectors, and conducting microbiological lab inspections.
Sharp, who serves on the CHDS Alumni Association board, said the Center’s Emergence and REP programs “helped further ignite my curiosity and interest in the multi-faceted space that Homeland Security operates in. They enabled me to continue to ask the big questions!”
In addition to completing the CHDS Emergence and REP programs, Sharp has completed a Master’s of Homeland Security from Penn State University where he is currently pursuing his PhD in the Department of Public Administration.