Debra J. Greenhalgh was recently selected as a Daily Point of Light by the Points of Light Foundation, which honors individuals and groups who make a positive impact through their volunteer efforts. Aside from being a project manager and systems engineer for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center for more than 19 years, Greenhalgh has also served as a scuba-diving instructor, providing therapeutic in-water and scuba-diving experiences for people with disabilities, terminal illness and adaptive needs for the past 10 years. She holds a B.S. in mathematics from the University of New Haven, an M.S. in software engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and she is pursuing her Ph.D. in system engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School.
PBN: What made you choose two career paths that involve the ocean?
GREENHALGH: I was brought up and have always lived near the water. In high school, my career interest in the ocean was heightened when I took a summer science class through the University of Connecticut Project Oceanology program and I won a science achievement award that year. Soon after, I learned to scuba dive, which opened up my realm to underwater exploration. Through teaching scuba, I am able to combine my love and respect for the ocean with teaching people.
PBN: What do you find most rewarding about being a scuba instructor?
GREENHALGH: I gain satisfaction from teaching and coaching people, which is magnified when I expose them to the underwater realm and its creatures. Our oceans are bursting with incredible life and adventure for all to enjoy. I feel if people understand life in our oceans, people will also approach it with respect. I also find it very rewarding to help people. Teaching scuba instruction allows me to provide therapeutic in-water and scuba-diving experiences for people with disabilities and adaptive needs. Many people that have been exposed to the water have experienced decreased pain levels and increased flexibility.
PBN: What made you choose to recently pursue your Ph.D. in system engineering?
GREENHALGH: My intention is to earn my Ph.D. in system engineering to lead the delivery of innovative solutions in the U.S. Navy’s strategic focus areas for the next generation of undersea warfare. That focus includes translating warfighting requirements into technical performance parameters, as well as maintaining and expanding the U.S. military technology base by providing system engineering within the acquisition life cycle framework that meets future challenges in undersea warfare. The Ph.D. in system engineering will provide me the needed level of knowledge for my mission’s success. •