Lisa Colleen Veitch

Research Staff Member, System Evaluation Division, Institute for Defense Analyses
MSMSE ’86, PhD ’89

For her important and persuasive contributions to understanding the materials, and their limitations in reliability, within the Joint Strike Fighter program and other important systems for national defense

A semiconductor production line in Kokomo, Indiana, couldn’t hold Lisa Veitch for long. Luckily, her post- bachelor’s engineering position with Delco Electronics was close enough to Purdue that getting a master’s part-time was very feasible.

After getting her bachelor’s degree in ceramic science and engineering at Penn State University, Veitch opted for a master’s in materials engineering. “A good friend advised that I try materials engineering because it was a hands-on discipline. I wanted the hands-on,” she says.

Veitch followed up her part-time master’s with full-time dedication to doctoral research for the Office of Naval Research. After that, she found herself involved in something else she wanted — a position with NASA.

“Since I was young, I was always interested in NASA. The idea of being in a spacecraft was cool, of course,” says Veitch, who has a pilot’s license and flies in her spare time.

As a researcher at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, which she describes as “a big old sandbox,” Veitch developed ceramic matrix composite materials for engines — and received a patent.

“I got a special services award and a patent for fibers that were reinforcing materials for gas turbine engines,” Veitch says. “It was a special coating for the fiber so the matrix would attach to the fiber.”

After seven years at NASA, in 1996 Veitch joined the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) in Alexandria, Virginia. In the two decades since, she has contributed to research for several weapon systems, including the Joint Strike Fighter, Comanche helicopter and the presidential helicopter. Her assessments have been used by the Department of Defense to either restructure or terminate weapon-system programs.

Looking back on the years she spent working toward her doctorate at Purdue, Veitch still expresses appreciation for the closeness of her peers — a tight-knit class of 36 grad students — and for the kindness from faculty that she was shown during a tough time.

“My mother was very ill when I was getting my PhD and taking my exams,” she recalls. “I was able to take a summer off to be with her. The department really understood and supported me. Having the closeness of the department really helped me get through that and also stay focused on my work.”

Veitch has received many honors and awards, but it’s particularly noteworthy that she is one of only two women singled out for the IDA’s Andrew J. Goodpaster Award for Excellence in Research. In bestowing the award to Veitch in 2015, IDA cited her “extraordinary technical competence, creativity, objectivity and perseverance.”

Veitch applies the same praiseworthy attributes to her commitment to give back — a longstanding priority for her. She has given seminars on the importance of math and science to classes at Plum Senior High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; at Penn State New Kensington; and at a variety of schools in Ohio and around the U.S.

“I’ve talked to over 300 high school and freshmen engineering students this year alone,” she says. “I take my vacation and do it on my own.” Veitch also has mentored several students pursuing engineering degrees, all of whom are now engaged in successful careers.

Outside of work and volunteering, Veitch enjoys piloting and diving. She is a certified scuba diver. If not up in the air or under the water, she enjoys playing piano and ballroom dancing.

Career Highlights

2005-present Research Staff Member, System Evaluation Division, Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA)
1996-2005 Research Staff Member, Science and Technology Division, IDA
1995-1996 Liaison, NASA High-Speed Research Project Office
1989-1996 Materials Research Scientist, Lewis Research Center, NASA
1986-1989 Graduate Assistant, Materials Engineering, Purdue University
1983-1986 Process Development and Production Engineer, Delco Electronics