Jake Bleacher, a chief exploration scientist with NASA, returned to his alma mater Friday to talk with students about his career path after graduating from Penn Manor High School in 1996.
Bleacher encouraged students to take as many math courses as possible and to learn the value of collaboration in the workplace.
Collaboration is key in his role in NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, which is working on human exploration of the Moon and Mars. Bleacher’s research focuses on understanding the volcanic history of the Earth, Moon and Mars.
After graduating from Penn Manor, Bleacher studied astronomy at Franklin & Marshall College, but realized he had more interest in geology and switched his major. He encouraged students to be flexible in their career paths and to follow whatever field inspires them.
He pointed out that the work he now does at NASA did not even exist when Bleacher was at Penn Manor, so today’s students will likely end up in completely new fields in the future.
Whatever they do, they’ll need to be able to communicate and work well with others, a skill Bleacher said he first developed even before college while working at a grocery store and as a landscaper.
“You can imagine that launching a rocket is not just one person’s job. That’s not how it works. It’s a huge, multidisciplinary, complicated thing that requires good relationship skills with other people,” he said. “Collaborating means I’m good at this, you’re good at that, and if we work together, we’ll be good at the whole thing.”
Bleacher was in Lancaster this week to speak at Franklin & Marshall College’s commencement, and he reached out to the high school to set up Friday’s presentation, which included a question-and-answer session with students.
We can’t thank him enough for his input and inspiration!