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The stars within reach

Astronaut talks to Shaker students about her career and the importance of science

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps spoke with Shaker High School students Tuesday, Feb. 25, about her career and encouraged them to take an interest in physics and engineering.

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps spoke with Shaker High School students Tuesday, Feb. 25, about her career and encouraged them to take an interest in physics and engineering. Photo by Billy DeLap.

— Shaker High School brought in a NASA astronaut recently to talk to students about the importance of physics and engineering and the future of space exploration after the U.S. abandoned its space shuttle program.

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps stopped at Shaker High School, Tuesday, Feb. 25, to discuss her career path from CIA agent to astronaut and what kind of future students can make for themselves with a physics or engineering degree.

A lot of children go through a phase where they want to be an astronaut, but Epps actually followed through with her plan.

“I think many kids really want to become an astronaut, and you just hear it and it sounds so cool. So when I was 9 years old, I thought, ‘OK, I would love to become an astronaut,’” said Epps.

Farhan Gandhi, a professor of aerospace engineering at RPI, was instrumental in bringing Epps to the school. He said astronauts have the experience that helps students become interested in science programs.

“I think that these people are the elite few in the nation, and the opportunity to learn from someone like them could be inspiring,” said Gandhi.

In 2002, Epps began working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as a technical intelligence officer, and, in 2009, was selected as one of 14 members to the 20th NASA Astronaut Class.

Epps earned her bachelor’s degree in physics from LeMoyne College then went on to earn a masters and doctorate from the University of Maryland in aerospace engineering.

She said NASA scientists and astronauts do much more than just study stars and planets in outer space. A great deal of research is conducted on everything from cancer cells to robotics.

Gandhi said that even though there is a lot of money to be made on Wall Street, it’s not doing much good for our society, and a science career can benefit humankind in much bigger ways.

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