Weapons systems analyst, former student talks with campus engineering students

Lisa Veitch, a weapons systems analyst and former student at Penn State New Kensington, returned to campus Oct. 11 to speak with first-year students about engineering careers.

A research staff member for the Institute for Defense Analyses, Veitch spoke to the Intro to Engineering Design class of Joan Kowalski, senior instructor in engineering at the campus. The class is a required course in the four-year electro-mechanical engineering technology program.

“Lisa shared her 30 years of experience as an engineer,” said Kowalski, who joined the campus faculty in 1987. “Her presentation gave the freshmen engineers exposure to the world of engineering.”

Harking back to her days matriculating at the campus and fast-forwarding to working at NASA and researching for the U.S. Department of Defense, Veitch gave the budding engineers a glimpse of the various careers that await graduates in the fields of engineering.

Researching and analyzing have always been her bailiwick. Veitch began her career in 1989 with NASA as a materials research scientist and moved on to the Institute for Defense Analyses 10 years later.

“I enjoy solving problems and the hands-on experiences, as well as the math and science,” said Veitch, who has accepted the invitation to be the fall 2013 commencement speaker for the campus.

Located in Alexandria, Va., the Institute for Defense Analyses is a nonprofit corporation that operates three federally funded research and development centers to provide objective analyses of national security issues, particularly those requiring scientific and technical expertise, and conducts related research on other national challenges.

As a weapons system analyst, Veitch provides independent technical assessments on weapons, technology and policies that are supported by the Defense Department. It’s a job where routine days are not the norm.

“When you’re involved in the most expensive fighter aircraft program in the world, you sometimes don’t have any control over your days or nights,” said Veitch,

The Plum Borough native earned a bachelor’s degree in ceramic science and engineering from Penn State, and master’s and doctorate degrees in materials engineering from Purdue University. Although she completed her undergraduate studies at the University Park campus, Veitch credits the New Kensington campus as the springboard for her vocation. After graduating from Plum High School, she vacillated on the merits of attending college before choosing New Kensington because it was close to home.

“I wasn’t sure if college was right for me, but PSUNK (as the campus was known at the time) gave me confidence in myself, and I thrived in both academics and leadership positions,” said Veitch, who was an officer of the Student Government Association. “The students and faculty have always been great. “

Campus faculty inspired her to utilize her math and science talents to pursue an engineering degree. Clarence “Bill” Finley, associate professor of chemistry, who retired in 2007 after 25 years at the campus, was her favorite professor.

“Dr. Finley and I are still friends to this day,” said Veitch, who earned a Baynard and Ethel Kunkle scholarship at the campus. “PSUNK is really home to me. I have many fond memories of being a student here, working in the labs in the summers and coming back to visit.”

Veitch resides in Alexandria and spends her leisure time in the air and under water. Veitch holds a private pilot’s license for single engine planes, and she is a certified scuba diver. When her feet are on the ground, she enjoys playing the piano and ballroom dancing.

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Last Updated October 24, 2013