Prabhakar served as director of DARPA from 2012 to 2017. At DARPA, she oversaw teams that prototyped a system for detecting nuclear and radiological materials before a terrorist can build a bomb, that developed tools to find human trafficking networks in the deep and dark web, and that enabled complex military systems to work together even when they were not originally designed to do so. She also established a new office to spur novel biotechnologies, the White House said.
Prabhakar’s family immigrated from India to the United States when she was three years old – first to Chicago and then settling when she was age 10 in Lubbock, Texas, where she went on to get her electrical engineering degree from Texas Tech University.
She was the first woman to earn a PhD in applied physics from the California Institute of Technology, where she also earned an MS in electrical engineering. She started her career in the legislative branch as a Congressional Fellow at the Office of Technology Assessment.
She is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University