Debbie Martinez

NASA Aeronautical Engineer

I began working at NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC) in August 1990. My job title is electronics engineer, aerospace technologist and I work in the Systems Development Branch (SDB). The SDB manages the unique state-of-the-art Flight Simulation Facilities at LaRC.

My specific tasks change based on a project's duration, which is approximately one year. This provides great opportunities for me to try out different skills and learn new ones. I am constantly learning new things in order to be up to speed with the latest technologies, including new software development languages, tools and methodologies.

Primarily, my job consists of supporting our research community with their particular flight research project studies that utilize the simulation facilities. This involves understanding their problem domain, formulating possible solutions, allocating appropriate resources, and ensuring that the results satisfy our researchers' needs.

Some of the major projects I have worked on include: the S-61 Sikorsky helicopter program and various studies conducted for the High-Speed Research (HSR) program. Both programs are currently run on the Visual Motion Simulator VMS.

Currently, I am assisting with the design and construction of a new General Aviation simulator for our Cockpit Motion Facility(CMS) - this new simulator is intended to support the AGATE program. I'm also working on the reactivation of an existing LaRC General Aviation (GA) simulator that will be used by various AGATE researchers while the new simulator is being built.

I've always enjoyed math and science. I felt early on that I would pursue my career in some kind of science even though I was not always too sure what field that was going to be. Let's first interest was to become an archeologist, then veterinarian, marine biologist (sharks changed my mind), computer scientist, engineer, astronomer, and even an astronaut.

Well, to make a long story short, I started out to become a computer scientist. I received my Bachelor of Science degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University(E-RAU) in Daytona Beach, Florida. I say 'started' because I am continuing my education by pursuing a Masters of Science degree in systems (modeling & simulation) engineering and by completing my private pilot license (1997). Although I am still fearful of those sharks, hah! - I believe in one's potential to do anything-- even if you have not decided what that thing is yet.

Looking back I can't really say that I was ever told that I should not go into the sciences, but then again I was never really encouraged either, except by my mom. She wanted me to become a doctor. Although she is quite proud of me being a NASA engineer. Being a female in a male-dominated field has become second nature to me. I attribute this to my days in E-RAU where most often I was one of the few or only woman in my classes. Fortunately, more and more women are entering fields that once were filled by men only and that's great! However, I realize that many women do encounter bias in the workplace and have difficulties dealing with their male colleagues.

Since 1993 I have been an active member of Langley's Federal Women's Program Committee(FWPC), where I participate with other members (both women and men) to find ways to improve working conditions and opportunities for women at NASA Langley. FWPC also sponsors various activities throughout the year which provide avenues for further exposure and recognition of women's accomplishments.

My participation in HEP led me to being nominated and winning the "1999 Latina of the Year Award in Science & Technology" awarded by "Latina" magazine (September issue). This national recognition was a special honor for me and my family. The award, in addition to evaluating an individual's technical background, also reviewed their support of the enhancement of Hispanics in the local community.

My favorite FWPC event is the "Take our daughters to work to-day" (4th Thursday in April) program where I participate as a tour host for the Flight Simulator Facilities. I really enjoy enlightening our young women visitors (approximately 50) and inspiring them to be part of nontraditional careers (engineers, pilots, etc.) I encourage everyone who has the opportunity to participate in these type of programs. They are an excellent method of exposing girls at a young age to new possibilities which may lead them to widening their dreams and expectations.

I also encourage the younger readers to participate in this program at their mother's and/or father's workplace (if possible) or find someone who is willing to sponsor them for that day at their workplace. You will learn of the different career opportunities available and this may help you determine and/or narrow down your own interests.

Philosophy "Let every opportunity serve as a means for you to explore and learn!" and "Always treat others as you want them to treat you!"