Where Are They Now?

Former Student Fights Bioterrorism

Elizabeth Dalton
Senior Program Analyst, Anteon Corporation
To stop terrorists from gaining or using biological weapons; to protect the public if they do

Elizabeth Dalton

Elizabeth Dalton

Her life sounds like the stuff of a thrilling spy novel: Flowing past generals, lieutenants, officers of every branch of the military, Elizabeth Dalton winds her way down the labyrinthine corridor of the Pentagon’s outer ring. She turns into a hallway marked “Classified Personnel Only” and comes to a set of imposing metal doors. After accepting her thumbprint, the doors open with a hush, and Beth enters the top secret world of homeland security.

Though it sounds like a work of fiction, this is practically an everyday occurrence in the life of Elizabeth Dalton, a biological weapons expert and former Collin County Community College District (Collin) student.

One of her many jobs is to provide high-level technical expertise to the Army Office of The Surgeon General in support of the Army Medical Department’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRNE) Defense Program. That means fighting terrorists’ potential to acquire biological weapons and the ability to use them in the United States.

“It is a great job, it is a tough job,” she said. “It is both an honor and a responsibility.”

She has served as a principle developer for the Los Angeles County strategic national stockpile and helped develop a plan to protect 88 Southern California counties in the event of a smallpox or SARS outbreak. She conducts tabletop and field exercises to enhance the U.S. Army and civilian responses to emergency medical/mass casualty events, and she develops homeland security policies with the Department of Defense.

While working on homeland security issues during the day, she is pursuing a Ph.D. in biodefense from George Mason University. Her fields of expertise include medical biodefense and non-proliferation issues. She has two master’s degrees: a master of public health from The George Washington University, in Washington, D.C., with a concentration in health promotion/disease prevention/epidemiology; and a master of science in microbiology from Texas Tech University. It is quite a hefty dossier, and she is only 28 years old.

After graduating from high school early, Dalton thought that she wanted to head off to a big university, but her parents wanted her to stay closer to home. That is when she discovered Collin. Coming to Collin definitely changed her life, she said. It was there she decided to change her major.

“I realized that I loved working in a lab and doing research, so I decided to major in biology.”

“At Collin, I went to meet with advisors, and they were so helpful,” Dalton said. “By the time I walked through the door at Texas Tech…every single one of my classes transferred.”

She said the level of instruction was equally impressive. “I took my first chemistry and first biology classes at Collin, and still, to this day, they are some of the best classes I ever had. I had a really great experience.”

Perhaps foreshadowing her career in homeland security, one of her favorite classes at Collin was political science.

“I took my first political science class from Dr. (David) Garrison--hands down the best political science teacher I ever had. He was so politically charged. I loved that class. I vividly remember him.”

After transferring to Tech, Dalton returned to Collin to pick up classes needed to fill out her transcript.

“It is probably the most one-on-one attention I ever had,” she said of her time at Collin.

Now, Dalton is a globetrotter talking about defense issues in Alaska, Brussels and South Korea. But she will always have fond memories of her time at Collin.

“I think that going to a community college right out of high school is one of the greatest things that you can do. It is a great step.

“Now, when kids ask me, ‘What do you think I should do?’ I say, ‘Start at a community college!’”