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Past Keynote Speakers


2021: Karen B. Brun

Karen Brun in NASA uniform

Karen embarked on a career in the U.S. Air Force, specializing in aviation and air mobility operations serving as a C-5 Galaxy flight engineer. She also earned three associate degrees from the Community College of the Air Force, a Bachelor of Science in Applied Science and Technology from Thomas Edison State University, and a Master of Science in Unmanned Systems from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate pursuing aviation sciences with a focus on Human Factors at Florida Institute of Technology. Karen also holds Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) licenses and ratings which include: Instrument Rated Private Pilot; Remote Pilot; Aircraft Dispatcher; Airframe and Power Plant Mechanic; and Flight Engineer (Turbojet). As an instrument rated private pilot, she has flown simulations using enhanced weather models in support of ongoing FAA-sponsored studies to help industry experts identify root causes for weather-related general aviation accidents.

With an insatiable passion for space, Karen also sought opportunities such as RockOn, a NASA-sponsored program, where she learned to build sounding rocket payloads utilizing an Arduino platform, and had a front row seat as it launched onboard a Terrier-Improved Orion sounding rocket from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility.

In 2016, Karen was selected as a scientist-astronaut candidate for Project PoSSUM, a citizen-science astronautics research and education program which is supported by the NASA Flight Opportunities Program.

Soon after, NASA selected Karen as a mission specialist for the Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) Program, a 45-day simulated space habitat mission at NASA Johnson Space Center, which focuses on human research to support future deep space travel. Following HERA, Karen accepted a NASA internship at the Safety & Mission Assurance Support Division at the NASA Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

2020: Mikayla Monroe

Mikayla Monroe in outdoor gear

Mikayla Monroe is a Data Analyst and Submersible Pilot at OceanGate, Inc., provider of manned submersibles headquartered at the Port of Everett. Inspired by marine biologists on Shark Week when she was in 5th grade, Mikayla got involved in hands-on activities through beach cleanups, habitat restorations, volunteering at the Seattle Aquarium, and making connections at Expanding Your Horizons when she was in middle and high school. Following those childhood ambitions has led her to log 16 submersible dives and counting.

Mikayla is also an alum of the Ocean Research College Academy (ORCA), where she presented research on heavy metal concentrations in human hair and river otter fur at 8 national and international conferences. Mikayla graduated a year early from college with the 2018-2019 Outstanding Graduating Student in Management Information Systems (MIS) Award at Western Washington University. She continues to be involved in outreach for young women in STEM and in her spare time enjoys running, kickboxing at 30 Minute HIT, and competing in relay races like Ski-to-Sea and Bellingham Bay Marathon Relay.

2019: Penelope Lora Ramirez

Penelope Lora Ramirez headshot

Penelope Lora Ramirez is a senior design engineer at The Boeing Company, specializing in design analyses of air and space craft for both Boeing Commercial and Boeing Defense, Space and Security major divisions. In 2001 and 2003 Boeing nominated Penelope for the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Award Conference (HENAAC) Most Promising Engineer. She also received the 2001 Women of Color in Technology award for achievements in technology, science, or engineering. Penelope has supported numerous aircraft platforms in her dynamic career, including the KC-46 Tanker Refuel Boom, 777-300ER Empennage, 777-200LR, 747/767 Wing, 767 Airframe, and 747 Fuselage.

Penelope was born in Lima, Peru, where she lived until her family moved to the United States in 1985. Having learned English at an early age, she attended Annandale High School in Fairfax, Virginia.

Penelope earned her bachelor's degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1996 and joined The Boeing Company in 1997. While working, she studied for her Masters Degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Southern California, completing that degree in 2004.

Outside of work, Penelope has remained active with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Seattle Chapter, serving on several committees and as chapter president from 2001 to 2002. She joined the board of directors for VIVA Hispanic Foundation in 2003 and continues to serve on the board.