November 2022 Edition

Caitlyn Sarna, Risk Analyst, DIS

An intelligence and emergency management analyst for the Counterterrorism and Security Planning Group of the Decision and Infrastructure Sciences Division (DIS), Caitlyn Sarna routinely encounters and thinks through communities’ worst days. But, that’s also an intellectual space in which she has learned to thrive.

“I’ve always wanted to help people and emergency management is a good fit for that,” said Sarna. “I make plans, procedures, trainings, and exercises in anticipation of communities’ worst days.”

Sarna was introduced to her field by none other than media mogul Oprah Winfrey, who hired her to handle operations and security in anticipation of celebrity and studio guests on the daytime talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show. Sarna watched, listened, and learned on the job. In her next position at a major university laboratory, she got a taste of managing a true emergency when a colleague was exposed to anthrax. She went on to earn a Master’s degree in science: emergency threat and response management at the University of Chicago and hasn’t looked back since. In fact, she now helps teach the program’s courses to the next generation of emergency managers.

“I have the best of both worlds,” said Sarna, whose strength in language arts, history and reading led initially to a degree in political science and religion. “I am not a hands-on scientist in a lab doing experiments, but I am in the lab culture and I’m able to take scientists’ and industry leaders ideas and data, put them on paper and analyze a variety of threats that may be  hard for others to understand.”

Sarna travels often for work, which can make it difficult to strike a healthy work-home balance. Her husband manages their two children’s schedules with additional help from neighbors and friends. A pandemic-inspired commitment to running and working out have improved her overall health, both physically and mentally.

“I love that I can disconnect form work when I put on my headphones and gym shoes,” she said. “For my job, I prepare for a lot of stuff. With running, I don’t need to prep for it. I just go!”

Another thing Sarna loves is organizing Argonne’s Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day program, which she says might be her favorite workday of the year.

“It is so neat to see girls have an intimate opportunity with a   scientist, and to have those interactions take place,” said Sarna. “Even If I can just change one life, I’ll do it again and again. We need every girl or woman in science.”