• Brooke Owens Fellow, Class of 2018

  • University of Washington, Informatics, ‘20

  • Host Institution: Stratolaunch

  • Mentor: Mandy Vaughn

Shannon is an Informatics major at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. Her love for space exploration and passion for data science merged when it came to her career field. Shannon has had her focus on applying autonomous means to analyzing data. She has applied this to research in space radiation, aerodynamics testing data, predictive telemetry analysis for rockets, architecture automation and data parsing for satellites.

Shannon first found her passion while on her deployment to Afghanistan in 2014 with the Army National Guard. She found an interest in being an intelligence analyst and saw what the impact of finding patterns in significant activity could mean for the safety of the soldiers for not only her unit, but her area of operations as a whole. Through data science, she was able to find a purpose that could save lives. She wanted to have a civilian career with the same kind of purpose and design. Once she returned to the United States, she packed her bags and moved from a small town in Texas to Seattle, Washington in the hopes of attending the Informatics program at the University of Washington.

Before applying to UW, she wanted to restart her schooling at Seattle Central Community College. She hadn't been to college in three years since before joining the military and saw the benefits in smaller class sizes, building close teacher relationships, and working with people that had unconventional walks of life like hers. It was only when she joined the Rocketry Club did she find a way to bring data science to analyze data and make predictive analysis to engineering space exploration. She strived to find more ways data science could improve the way people approach the safety and accuracy of space travel, and how automating analysis on testing data gathered by subject matter experts could be used for more than just one answer and found at a quicker rate. This, in turn, brought her to research opportunities on a Weather Balloon with Seattle Central, a two-stage nine engine multi-cluster rocket and Husky Satellite Lab with the University of Washington, internships at NASA Johnson Space Center and NASA Langley Research Center, all before receiving her Associates Degree. In Fall 2017, Shannon reached the goal that she set out for herself three years ago when she transferred into the Informatics Program at the University of Washington.

As a Brooke Owens Fellow, she worked at Stratolaunch as a Systems Engineer. She worked with the Aerodynamics Team building autonomous methods for predicted trajectories to better maximize payload weight, among other projects. Following that opportunity, she worked at NASA Langley Research Center as a Flight Software Engineer Pathways Co-Op. Thanks to Brooke Owens, she realized her love of innovation in technology was in the private sector. She completed an internship at Ball Aerospace as a Systems Engineer for Mission Analysis, using data science to build better satellite architectures. Recently, Shannon was chosen as the astronaut candidate for Out Astronaut, representing the LGBTQ+ community serving as an openly queer woman in space. She is attending the Advanced Space PoSSUM Space Academy this Fall in Florida as her Phase I training. With proper funding, in Fall 2020 she will continue into Phase II training, the Applied Astronautics Program at the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences and then conduct a science experiment of her design onboard a private space flight to space.

She continues to finish her Bachelor’s at UW, graduating in June 2020. She is researching how to better teach non-technical people how to manage their data to help MESA, an organization that provides opportunities and tutoring to minority STEM students. She will also be traveling to Asia in November to volunteer with PeaceTrees Vietnam, teaching their local ordnance teams UXO extraction methods she learned in the military, translating military technical manuals, and writing articles to be published. She continues to serve as an Intel Analyst in the Army National Guard. She ultimately wants to inspire young women and the LGBTQ+ community alike to cultivate their interest in STEM careers and show them that when you keep trying: no matter where you started, it's all about where you end up.