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MIT Technology Review

Kelly (Hogan) Shannon ’02

From test tubes to tactical ops

August 21, 2019
Kelly (Hogan) Shannon ’02Kelly (Hogan) Shannon ’02
Kelly (Hogan) Shannon ’02Courtesy of the FBI

Kelly (Hogan) Shannon ’02 has always loved investigating. It’s what drew her to MIT to study biology. It’s also what led to her career as a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

At MIT, where she majored in Course 7, Shannon’s pursuit of science included research in genetics at the Whitehead Institute. Simultaneously, she participated in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC), which provided her with a scholarship to attend the Institute. After graduation, Shannon envisioned a career in scientific research or medicine, but first she had to complete a four-year term in the Navy in return for her NROTC scholarship. And that’s when her career path took a turn.

“I was thrown into a role as a leader almost immediately,” Shannon says of her experience as an officer on Navy destroyers. “At 22 years old, I was now responsible for managing and leading 20 sailors at various stages in their careers.”

As a commissioned naval officer, Shannon was deployed to the Middle East: she and her team would board ships coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq in search of smuggled oil and other contraband. That experience got her thinking about an ancillary interest she’d always had in law enforcement. With a science background and tactical operations training, Shannon learned she was the type of candidate the FBI was looking for. Her understanding of the scientific community and research, it turns out, has been an asset in building connections with the research facilities and labs FBI agents often work with during investigations.

As an FBI agent for more than a decade, Shannon has been part of teams focused on criminal investigations, counterterrorism, and response to threats of mass violence and bombings. She has worked on data collection and analysis, conducted searches and arrests, and prepared for trials. Shannon has also traveled overseas many times to investigate bombings and terrorism, and also to support other countries’ capacity to respond effectively. “Giving countries the tools to build their own response was really fulfilling,” she says.

Shannon recently moved into a supervisory role in which she oversees agents conducting both preventive and reactive investigations. She says that work with the FBI is anything but a nine-to-five job, but that MIT helped prepare her for that. “So many of my favorite times in my career have been when I was in the thick of it with amazing people—it was the same thing at MIT,” she says.