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An Interview with Marshall Shepherd
Marshall Shepherd
Marshall Shepherd
Marshall Shepherd has a degree in meteorology, but he's not your typical weatherman. Shepherd is a meteorologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center where he conducts research and helps develop missions to better understand and predict weather and climate. But Shepherd is just as good at explaining science as he is at researching it, which is why NASA asked him to serve as its science communications manager during the past year, informing various audiences about NASA's Earth science-related work, programs and activities. In fact, Shepherd can often be heard on TV and radio as a NASA expert on weather, climate and remote sensing. He also recently co-authored a children's book on weather-related science projects and basic weather information. Shepherd was the first African American valedictorian of his high school, and the first African American to receive a doctoral degree in meteorology from Florida State University.

Earth Explorers: How did you become interested in science?

Shepherd: I was always curious about science from as early as I can remember. I originally wanted to be an entomologist [one who studies insects], but I was stung by a honeybee and found out that I was allergic to insect stings. I moved on to an interest in chemistry, but my science project, "Can a Sixth Grader Predict the Weather?" really sparked my love of meteorology -- not the prediction of weather, but the "how and why" of weather.

Earth Explorers: What do you like best about your work?

Shepherd: I got into the field by doing a science project, and now I make a living doing "really big" science projects that will hopefully make a difference in our understanding of the Earth and its weather and climate processes. The biggest difference is that I no longer have to make my own instruments because I can use NASA's satellites, aircraft and computer models.

Earth Explorers: What subjects in school have helped you the most?

Shepherd: Definitely any math, science or computer subjects were beneficial. But as I get more into my career, I also acknowledge how important English, for writing skills, social studies, for understanding policy and government, and communications, for public speaking, are for my day-to-day activities.

Earth Explorers: What are your career goals?

Shepherd: My career goals are to become a nationally and internationally respected, well-published scientist in the area of mesoscale meteorology and climate, and more specifically in areas related to urbanization and weather-climate feedbacks; to eventually transition into a science management position to further enable Earth science research within the broader science and societal applications community; and to, in the long term, run for a public office or attain a significant, high-level administrative post.

Earth Explorers: Who were your role models growing up?

Shepherd: My role models were my mother, for raising me as a single parent, and George Washington Carver, because he was so innovative and creative with limited resources.

Related Resources

NASAexplores: George Washington Carver

Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies