Taking Steps Toward Stellar Careers

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Finding the perfect career isn’t always a straight or obvious path—it can be surprising or even inspiring! Read on to hear about how all three scientists became interested in space, how they were encouraged along the way, and why they were inspired to pursue a career with NASA!

Jamie Favors: I was very young when I begged my mom to buy me a book full of beautiful NASA satellite images and pictures of astronauts in the space shuttle. I still have this book at home today! Along the way, I learned that every challenge is a new opportunity. I’m originally from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, and while I was attending college away from home, Hurricane Katrina happened. The hurricane impacted our homes and our family, so I transferred to a school closer to home. One day as I walked through the physics building, I noticed a pamphlet about internships with the NASA logo. With no real expectation that I actually would get in, I applied. 17 years later, I’m still here at NASA headquarters, doing things well beyond what I ever imagined at that point! As much as I can look back and remember some of the pain brought on by Hurricane Katrina, so much of it led me down this path to NASA.

Dr. Kelly Korreck: A family camping trip actually sparked my interest in space! I was about 8 years old when we went, and that’s when I saw the Milky Way for the first time. I left that trip wanting to learn more, and after that, I spent a lot of time in our local library reading every astronomy book I could find. Many different people encouraged me—my grandmother was very supportive and I also had great teachers. Specifically, I remember my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Haley. I was in her class around the time of Haley’s Comet, and she made science relatable for us with fun experiments. The rest of my journey looks like a straight line: I got my degrees from the University of Michigan and I got a post-doc, a time after your doctorate degree where you study more before moving on as a research scientist. All of that was me finding my way! I kept asking myself, “What is the coolest thing that I want to do? Build a rocket? Go to Japan to work on an X-ray telescope?” I just kept following the next interesting project until I found the Parker Solar Probe, the probe that is going to be closest to the sun!

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