Get to know Dr. Shannon Statham, BK alumna from the Class of 2000. Shannon is an integration and test engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory located in Pasadena, California. She attended grade school at Christ the King Catholic School, earned undergraduate degrees from the University of North Florida and the University of Central Florida and went on to earn an M.S. and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Shannon has received numerous professional awards and accolades, including the Amelia Earhart Fellowship.
Shannon did not always aspire to work at NASA. Up through high school, she hadn’t even considered engineering, let alone a Ph.D. and career in aerospace. Her English teacher at Bishop Kenny, Mr. Frank Smyth helped Shannon realize her potential, motivating her to be a better student and to be enthusiastic about her college and career prospects. Knowing this potential led to an exploration of opportunities in college which, combined with the inspiration from her proximity to the Kennedy Space Center while attending UCF, ultimately led Shannon to where she is now. Shannon states that her biggest challenge in getting there was keeping her focus on long-term goals rather than short-term struggles during difficult classes. She stated, “Discipline is showing up every day; motivation comes and goes.” It was through this self-motivation and discipline that she got through her Ph.D. at Georgia Tech and continues to thrive at JPL today.
As an integration and test engineer, Shannon’s responsibilities include running the facilities that simulate launch (think - generating rocket launch vibrations to ensure the spacecraft can survive the ride to space). She also works extensively with CubeSats, which are mini satellites. CubeSat projects that she worked on include RACE, MarCO, and RainCube. The latter of the three is a project Shannon considers her favorite. Shannon has been the Project Manager on RainCube, which is still an operating satellite, from the very beginning, including leading the team that proposed the mission concept to NASA and acquired the funding. Shannon most recently worked on Sentinel-6, an ocean science mission, which is scheduled to launch from the west coast on November 10th.
Shannon outlined what makes a NASA mission successful: “First you must have curiosity and want to ask the hard questions. Then you need ingenuity and must challenge yourself to think outside the box, followed by hard work and dedication. Then you finish with lots of collaboration with peers and industry partners to make the mission a complete success.” She explained that these attributes (curiosity, creativity, dedication, and teamwork) are also helpful to being successful in college and in your career.
In her free time, Shannon enjoys sewing and staying active. She began salsa dancing in 2006 and met her husband through her dance partner at Georgia Tech. Shannon has fond memories of her high school years and said, “I truly loved participating in the BK chorus! I made friends for life in the choir.” Her piece of advice to students is this, “Do not let the pressure of needing to make decisions about your future inhibit or prevent you from making a decision at all. Be decisive, choose the best option(s) based on what you know today, and understand that you can always make changes along the way.”
Follow Dr. Shannon Statham’s blog for more information about her career and interests and to keep up with future projects: https://www.statham.space/