Debra Kimberling

San Diego, CA, US
Field of Work 
Mechanical Engineering
-Non-profit board
San Diego County Engineering Council
Job Title or "Student" 
University of Washington, Arizona State University, Mesa Community College
Aerospace Engineering, Engineering Science
Education Level 
Profile Biography 
When I was in high school, I didn’t know what an engineer was or what they did. Because I enjoyed math, I started to take accounting in a local community college. It was there that my math professor, for whom I graded papers, suggested I look into engineering. I liked the thought of entering a career that would allow me to be creative and to solve practical real-world problems. I also appreciated the relative higher starting pay. I've since worked with many amazing people throughout my 30-year engineering career, from academia to government to industry, and helped make this world a slightly better place to work, live and play.

As a mechanical engineer, I've developed submersibles, put rockets into orbit, and designed engines. I've even taught engineering as a professor at Purdue University! They all have practical applications from improving the defense of our nation, to supporting geosynchronous satellite communication systems, and providing critical backup emergency power for life saving institutions like hospitals. I was even able to conduct some of my own research as a Navy civilian scuba diver.

Today as a retiree, I dedicate a significant part of my time volunteering in the local STEM community. I work to improve the visibility of underrepresented engineering role models and to advance the engineering culture, both in school and in the workplace, to become more inclusive and welcoming for all. Here are some of the projects in which I am involved:

SWENext, a national no-cost K-12 program, has great potential to help build a welcoming and inclusive environment for girls in engineering. Through their monthly newsletters, they provide engineering role models for students, educators and adult advocates alike. I am a member of the SWENext Educator workgroup and I work locally to build awareness of this program.

San Diego County Engineering Council is a collective of local engineering society non-profits of which I am the current president. My participation allows me to give back to the organizations, such as the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), that supported me and the local engineering community. My engineering society involvement was a significant factor in my career success and development as an engineer and leader. As president of the council, my goal is to improve access to the available engineering resources, including non-profit best practices, inclusion research, and engineering outreach.

Why So Few Women in STEM is the title of a 2010 AAUW report explaining why women have barely advanced in certain non-traditional careers. I give presentations to different organizations based on the gender social research. My goal is to explain, and provide positive actionable tips, on how the culture in which we grew up impacts our views of successful women. Understanding and improving this culture is at the core of building inclusion, not just for women in the workplace, but for all. It can help everyone better navigate school and the workplace.

In my spare time, I am a member of an improv troupe, play the guitar and enjoy theatre, hiking, working out at the gym and camping. I am a fellow of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and member of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the Women’s History Museum.
Writing/blogging, Working outdoors, Poetry, Reading, Other
Race & Ethnicity 
Level of Participation 
After-school visit, In-school visit, Online role model, Summer camp visit
My Experience 
I have been a Role Model many times.
Evenings, Weekdays, Weekends, No Preference
Identifying other role models, Online Mentoring (email or Skype), Other
Program Affiliation 
AAUW, Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
Other Interests 
Improv, Women's History, Guitar, Hiking,
Other Resources

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