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From the Northland to NASA: Ashland Alumni Returns

Posted at: 02/14/2013 10:22 PM
Updated at: 02/14/2013 10:44 PM
By: Dayna Landgrebe

To live big, first you have to dream big. That's the message from one Northland College alumni who now works at NASA.

Shannon Franks is the featured speaker in the Alumni Career Speaker series at the Ashland college this week. He's now a senior research scientist for NASA and the Goddard Space Flight Center.

In his work, he focuses on Earth observation and obtains images from satellites for analysis through remote sensing techniques--no small task for a graduate from the little town of Ashland.

"It's important for students to know that they can come to place like this, get the education they need, and they can follow their dreams and actually see it through the end," Franks said.

Franks said it's one thing for students to think about a dream, but to actually see a colleague or friend doing it and achieving it is something else.

Franks' story is also unique--he suffered a paralyzing car accident during his first year at Northland College. Franks eventually returned to Northland and shifted his focus from solely studying environmental science, incorporating physics into his studies.

A series of summer internships resulted in him working for Goddard's Landsat Project Science Office. Franks' advice centered internships.

"You have that dream and then you go and get an internship, because you need that foot in the door. That's my biggest advice. You need that foot in the door, and often times, that's hard to get."

Franks will spend the week speaking with students and hosting seminars on his education and work. But it isn't all work--he also plans to participate in the Book Across the Bay Ski Race event with his wife on February 16.

For more information on the Goddard Space Flight Center, click here.