“My [Oakcrest] science and math teachers were very influential,” she says. “Dr. Jayaro took time outside of school to mentor myself and two of my classmates for an extracurricular science competition, the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision competition. While we didn’t win, it was my first foray into more in-depth scientific research, which is a skill that’s proved useful for my career. I can also credit my tenth grade chemistry class as the class that cemented my love of science.”
Dr. Jayaro also told Lourdes about a summer engineering program for girls at the University of Maryland, during which Lourdes learned about materials science and engineering for the first time. She loved it so much that she majored in it at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She then continued on in the field, attending Penn State University to earn a master’s degree and pursue a Ph.D. in the same subject.
Lourdes’ specialty is metallurgy, the study of metallic materials. Her research focuses on the additive manufacturing (3D printing) of different types of metallic materials. She uses 3D printing to combine metals, such as titanium and stainless steel, into one single part and then looks at how these materials interact with each other on the atomic level. After getting her Ph.D., she hopes to continue in the field of metallurgical research, with a focus on additive manufacturing.
Although hers is a highly specialized field, Lourdes says that her liberal arts education is invaluable. “Going into college, I felt like I had such a well-rounded education and a love for the humanities that a lot of other people who focused solely on STEM classes in high school did not,” she says. “At a school like MIT, it’s easy to lose sight of the world beyond science and technology, but because of Oakcrest’s liberal arts education I had a passion for the humanities that some of my peers did not. To this day, I’ve been able to take the critical thinking skills I learned in classes such as philosophy and upper level English classes and apply them to the work I do as a scientist.”
When she’s not hard at work, Lourdes loves to read, bake, and make crafts. “Baking is another hobby of mine that I love because it’s almost like doing a science experiment, but with much more delicious results!” she says.
Besides helping her find her vocational path, Oakcrest also gave Lourdes some of her most treasured friendships. She says, “My favorite memory goes way back to my first day of sixth grade. When I walked through the doors of Oakcrest, I immediately felt like I was home. On that first day, I became friends with a couple of my classmates that, to this day, are my best friends. They are like sisters to me.”