In just a few short years, Renee Eastburn, ENG ’18, has skyrocketed from Bensalem, Pennsylvania, to space—Lockheed Martin Space, that is, one of the four major business divisions of the American corporation with worldwide interests. Sometimes, she pinches herself to make sure that it’s all real.
With a major academic scholarship making college affordable for her, Eastburn earned her bachelor’s of science in mechanical engineering at Temple. For her senior design project, she created a hospital safety bed frame for traumatic brain injury patients, a project which took 18 months from concept to prototype.
As an extracurricular project, she worked with Temple Formula Racing and helped build a car that competed at the Michigan International Speedway in 2016. She also earned coveted internships at General Motors and Tesla. All of these experiences have shaped her career, but perhaps none more so than her work with the Society of Women Engineers’ (SWE) student chapter, an experience she describes as “life changing” and one which set her on the path for success. Eastburn attended three conferences with the organization and later served as chapter president.
“Being involved in SWE really helped me become the professional I am today,” she said. “I believe that the connections I made through SWE led me to my postgraduation career opportunities.”
“As president of Temple SWE, I learned the importance of active listening, time management and treating people you work with as whole human beings. These lessons carried over into my career,” she added.
A dedicated student, Eastburn—who battled chronic pain due to a genetic health condition that was misdiagnosed for years—took longer than expected to graduate due to switching majors to engineering in her first year. Luckily, an SWE scholarship provided her with financial support and she managed to graduate in 4 1/2 years, despite the stressors of her studies, health issues and paying for school.
“When I got that scholarship, I cried, because it made such a big impact on my situation and allowed me to complete my degree with less stress,” she said.
4-3-2-1 blast off
After graduating, Eastburn accepted an offer for a systems engineer role at the Valley Forge offices of Lockheed Martin. She then applied for, and was accepted to, the company’s competitive three-year rotational engineering leadership development program at Lockheed Martin Space’s headquarters in Denver, where she moved in 2020.
Today, Eastburn works on major U.S. defense projects. She has gained experience both as a systems engineer directly assessing aerospace and defense systems, and as a project engineer, coordinating major customer design reviews for these programs. Ultimately, she would love to work in the Commercial and Civil Space division on systems like the lunar mobility vehicle that Lockheed Martin is developing with General Motors.
“Sometimes I just stop and remind myself: It is is so awesome to be designing or working on products that are going into space,” she said. “Whether it’s satellites or defense systems, the systems we develop really make an impact on our country and the world.”
Today, Eastburn stays connected to Temple through friends and mentors and serves as a leadership coach for collegiate SWE sections across the country, helping them build their sections and navigate challenges they face.
As for her own personal challenges, Eastburn finally got a proper diagnosis after she graduated—schwannomotsis, a condition where the body grows tumors on the nerves and that causes extreme pain. She is now pain-free due to a successful tumor removal surgery in late 2019.
“Looking back, the fact that I was able to complete engineering school and work and do those internships and graduate in 4 1/2 years through all of that pain is my proudest accomplishment. If I can do that, I can do anything.”
At the same time, she urges current students and those emerging in their careers to remember to attend to their physical and mental health and well-being.
“You’re taught to just hustle and grind and that your career is your number one priority. But going through my health journey made me realize that you do need to listen to yourself, take care of yourself, prioritize yourself,” she said. “You perform best when you’re healthy, happy and inspired.”