- Assistant Professor of Engineering
- Engineering Department
Jessica Lavorata pursued her Ph.D. in Materials Engineering at Purdue University. Previously, she received her B.S. from Winona State University in Composite Materials Engineering, with minors in polymer science and mathematics.
Her thesis research focused on high-rate manufacturing of thermoplastic composites in an Industry 4.0 setting. More specifically, she investigated the production of multifunctional composites by integrating metallic wires and fiber optics into thermoplastic preforms for hybrid-molding. This work was funded by Ford Motor Company and the U.S. Department of Energy with the goal to create a cost-effective lightweight composite structure for electric vehicles.
Prof. Lavorata’s previous work has looked into producing thermoplastic wind turbine blade components that can be easily recycled as well as designing and manufacturing orchestral bows using thermoset composites.
She has been recognized several times at Winona State University, where she received the President’s Award and the Stan Prosen Memorial Composite Materials Engineering Scholarship; as well as at Purdue, where she received honorable mention for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.
Her passion for teaching students to navigate the intersection of industry and academia is complemented by her pedagogical approach cultivated through a ‘Teaching and Learning in Engineering’ certificate from Purdue’s Engineering Education Program.
Hear from Prof. Lavorata: Why Engineering?
I was initially drawn to the field of engineering due to its vast array of career opportunities, each offering unique challenges and possibilities. While I didn’t have a concrete path in mind when I first embarked on this journey, I was confident in my ability to contribute valuable skills to a multitude of teams. My inclination towards hands-on problem-solving, methodical thinking, and a strong sense of organization and goal orientation all pointed me toward the world of engineering.
Over time, I’ve come to realize that instead of rigidly choosing a single predefined path, it’s often more rewarding to let the path unfold naturally. That said, I’ve committed to specializing in polymer composites, a field with wide-ranging applications across nearly every industry imaginable. My hands-on experience has spanned projects in aerospace, marine, sports, music, renewable energy, and automotive sectors, all united by a common goal: enhancing product performance by making them lighter and stronger, all while maintaining cost-efficiency and reduced manufacturing time.
Within each of these projects, I adhere to the standard engineering design process. This process not only adds variability to my daily routine but also offers ample opportunities for personal growth. On any given day, I may find myself deeply engrossed in tasks related to conceptualizing, planning, manufacturing, testing, or documenting. This iterative process, while central to individual projects, also holds true for every endeavor I’ve undertaken. It’s extremely satisfying to witness the transformation of an idea into a tangible product.
One of my more core assets has been my ability to organize. Whether its people, time, or physical objects, I receive great satisfaction from arranging things in a structured manner, especially when this order leads to tangible and measurable results. It is this aspect that drew me towards the project management facet of engineering, which is fitting since those are two of the courses that I have the privilege of developing curriculum for, Managing an Engineering Venture and Engineering Practice I and II. In these classes, we engage in organizing and executing projects, and I look forward to witnessing the achievements we can unlock each semester as we tackle real-world challenges alongside community and industry partners.
My passion for teaching engineering stems from my desire to guide students in discovering their own passions and understanding how their unique skills can contribute to a collaborative team. Furthermore, teaching exposes me to a diverse range of projects and ideas, creating an environment where I can continue to learn and evolve. In addition to witnessing the evolution of projects from concept to product, I also take immense joy in observing students as they evolve over time into accomplished and unique engineers.
Outside of work, I enjoy being outdoors. I live for the challenge of pushing myself in independent sports, whether that is hiking, rock climbing, biking, or paddling. However, I also find a lot of joy in more leisurely activities just spent with my family and friends and exploring the areas around home.
- Ph.D. Materials Engineering, Purdue University, Fall 2023
- B.S. Composite Materials Engineering, Winona State University, May 2018
- EGR 1300 — Managing an Engineering Venture
- EGR 2700 — Engineering Practice I: Understand and Conceptualize
- Polymer composite fabrication and manufacturing