Mary Lee Gambone

Mary Lee Gambone

Global Head, Materials Engineering, Rolls-Royce
BSMetE 1982

For her forward-thinking approach in ensuring a robust materials organization capable of meeting future needs within the aerospace industry by developing materials used in demanding, high-temperature applications.

Mary Lee Gambone is no stranger to making a name for herself in the male-dominated field of materials engineering. In 2022, she became the first woman in the history of Rolls-Royce to hold the title of senior fellow. Concurrently, she is the company’s global head of materials engineering capability and head of the materials engineering, defence, business division. She leads a team of more than 500 people working across Asia, North America, Europe, and the United Kingdom and provides technical solutions for the entire engine life cycle — from development to production and service.

Mary Lee’s history with Rolls-Royce began in 1998, when she joined materials engineering as a development engineer and rapidly climbed the ladder to function as the chief of three different areas before assuming her current responsibilities. Her work history also includes roles at Allison Gas Turbine Division - General Motors Corporation, Materials Behavior Corp., and the Air Force Research Laboratories at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Mary Lee values the fundamental instruction she received under the tutelage of the then-Purdue Metallurgical Engineering Department. “I can recall many small moments when I puzzled over an issue in my work life, and, after going back to the basic principles of materials engineering, discovered a path forward toward a solution. My education at Purdue laid the foundation for this ability, and it prepared me for all the challenges that came after.”

She has given back tenfold to Purdue’s School of Materials Engineering (MSE), serving on the External Advisory Committee since 2011 and providing critical insight to ensure the school’s curriculum retains relevance in the aerospace and high-temperature service fields. She led the committee’s effort to place more emphasis on safety in engineering, sharing best practices so that policies like “stop work” and visual standards are now integrated in MSE courses. In addition, she has ensured that students are exposed to the variety of materials in gas turbine engine components, from titanium and superalloys to ceramic composites, and that new course offerings in areas like hypersonics are now in the curriculum.

She is most proud of the many excellent materials engineers she has coached during her career, finding joy and fulfillment in helping others do great work. “I found I could amplify my contribution to solving engineering problems by enabling my team,” she said.

For her efforts to promote women in STEM through mentoring and hiring, she was recognized in 2020 by the Indianapolis-based Women & Hi Tech organization’s Leading Light Award for Outstanding Achievement in STEM. Also, Purdue honored her with two previous awards: Outstanding Materials Engineer in 2013 and Cooperative Education Hall of Fame inductee in 2015.

A prolific author and speaker, Mary Lee is credited with more than 30 papers and invited talks, and she will sit on the SAE Board of Directors until 2026.

“If we are lucky, our career is long, 40 or 50 years perhaps. In that time, it can take many different paths, and no one path is the only or perfect one,” she advises. “Be open to opportunities that present themselves, even if they seem outside your comfort zone.”

Career Highlights

2023–present Member-at-Large, SAE International Board of Directors
2021–present Global Head, Materials Engineering, Rolls-Royce
2011–present Head, Materials Engineering, Defence Division, Rolls-Royce Corporation
2008–2010 Chief, R&T Systems and Processes, Rolls-Royce NA Technologies, Inc.
2006–2008 Chief, Materials and Processes, Rolls-Royce Corporation
2004–2006 Chief, Materials, Processes and Repair Engineering, Rolls-Royce
2002–2004 Manager, Component Life and Material Data, Rolls-Royce
2001–2002 Development Engineer, Component Life Management Group, Materials Applications Engineering, Rolls-Royce
1998–2000 Development Engineering, Manufacturing Technology Group, Materials Laboratory, Rolls-Royce
1991–1998 Team Lead and Materials Engineer, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base


1982 BS Metallurgical Engineering, Purdue University
1984 MS Materials Engineeing, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1995 PhD Materials Science, University of Virginia