STEM Professional of the week

Ivett Leyva, Ph.D.      
US Air Force Research Laboratory

Ivett Leyva grew up in Torreon, Mexico, brought up by a single parent and part of a strong family support system.  An exemplary elementary school student, Ivett was provided with the encouragement and opportunity to travel within the country to compete in academic competitions.  Ivett attended a technical junior high school, and while there, she developed a passion for math, science and public speaking. Her experiences at the elementary and junior high levels allowed her to smoothly transition into her chosen high school, which was a technical school specifically geared for engineers. It was during high school that Ivett determined that she would move to the United States to pursue her dreams of going to college. 

Soon after graduating from high school, Ivett applied to a United Nations program aimed to help students from Mexico and Central America, seek higher education in the United States.  Ivett was selected out of thousands of applicants, and after raising enough funds to cover her expenses for Whitman College in the state of Washington, Ivett set out on her educational journey – a journey that awarded her the freedom to learn, explore and question that which she didn’t understand or believe. During this time, Ivett was introduced to pre-engineering courses that motivated her to transfer to the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) in Pasadena, CA in pursuit of her bachelor’s degree.  Along the way, Ivett became fascinated with understanding re-entry problems for hypersonic vehicles. So naturally, seeking a master’s and Ph.D. in high speed aerodynamics was logical. 

After years of schooling, Dr. Ivett Leyva was finally able to apply her talents and skills to her chosen field, beginning her professional career working in Industry as a Mechanical Engineer for General Electric’s Global Research Center in New York.  Two years later, she found herself working for the Air Force Research Laboratory where she has continued since, making significant contributions to the rocket propulsion technology base in the U.S. Today, as a Sr. Aerospace Engineer and Branch Technical Advisor, oversees the technical accomplishments of an 11-member team executing a $36M annual budget.  Dr. Leyva provides critical technical guidance and corrective actions to ensure the program produces state-of-the-art technology. She also presents the technology developments in the program to industry, NASA, academia and other Air Force Agencies.

Dr. Leyva works very well with both her industry counterparts as well as the academic community. Her published work on flow characteristics, combustion stability, and injector characterization has made her a sought after collaborator with the University of California Los Angeles and CalTech, among others. Her technical oversight of the Hydrocarbon Boost program, the Air Force’s effort to develop technology crucial to the design and development of a new booster engine, will help enable the U.S. to move forward to the next stage of efficient space launch vehicles.

Exhilarated by her line of work, Dr. Leyva hopes to continue to push the envelope of technology.  Dr. Leyva holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering and applied science, and both a master’s and Ph.D. in aeronautics from CalTech. An avid traveler, Dr. Leyva is also a Registered Professional Engineer and has acquired a total of six patents on Pulse Detonation Engines. 

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