Marta Metelko/Gretchen Cook-Anderson
May 26, 2004
NASA's Weatherman Encourages Young People
An allergic reaction to a childhood bee sting kept Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd from becoming an entomologist. It did not keep him from pursuing his dreams of being a scientist and joining NASA.
In elementary school, he became interested in the weather; even creating a science project entitled, "Can a 6th Grader Predict the Weather?" Since then Shepherd has been committed to figuring out why weather behaves as it does and to improving overall understanding of Earth. True to his aspirations, Shepherd, a research meteorologist, has sought to integrate new scientific knowledge from NASA missions into real-life applications and decision-making processes.
Shepherd is the deputy project scientist for NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement mission. The project strives to improve predictions of climate change, the accuracy of weather forecasts, and provides frequent, complete samplings of the Earth's precipitation. He is on the NASA precipitation science team, a member of numerous technical and science committees.
In addition, Shepherd serves the larger scientific and educational communities through membership in the American Meteorological Society, National Technical Association, American Geophysical Union and International Association of Urban Climatology. He recently co-authored a children's book about conducting weather-related science projects and understanding basic weather information.
Shepherd received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in physical meteorology from Florida State University (FSU), Tallahassee, Fla. He is the first African-American to receive a doctorate from the FSU Department of Meteorology, one of the nation's oldest and most respected programs.
He has published numerous papers and made many public appearances as a NASA expert about weather, climate and remote sensing. Shepherd has presented his research to the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Defense and officials from foreign countries.
Shepherd encourages young people to pursue studies in Earth science and meteorology, and strives to improve minority access to these critical fields. "I am motivated to mentor and speak to youngsters who 'look like me' as often as I can," Shepherd said.
Shepherd's valuable scientific contributions and leadership have not gone unnoticed. He is one of NASA's four recipients of the most recent Presidential Early Career for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) award, the highest federal government award given to young scientists and engineers. Shepherd was chosen based on his research in mesoscale and satellite meteorology.
"This award anchors my motivation to make significant contributions in my science community and beyond. I am particularly interested in moving science from strictly research areas to being more accessible to societal communities that can benefit from it," Shepherd said. He feels like a "kid in a candy store," with his access to world-class NASA technologies and colleagues.
Although Shepherd prides himself on being a good and thorough scientist, most people would agree he is a fairly "normal" guy. He's an avid sports fan, has more than 2000 Compact discs and lifts weights. He is active in his alumni fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha, and the Florida State Alumni Association. Other than trying out fancy electronics, his favorite things to do involve spending time with his wife and new baby daughter.
Media interested in interviewing Shepherd should contact Gretchen Cook-Anderson, NASA Public Affairs, at: 202/358-0836.
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