Jim Lampariello ’13 says he was “one of those kids who always wanted to be an astronaut.”
He grew up dreaming of going to space and, now that he is an aerospace engineer at Blue Origin, a company dedicated to increasing access to space through the power of reusable rockets, Lampariello has his chance. Though he will not be going to space physically, Lampariello spends his days working on vehicles that will. And that counts as a dream come true.
Lampariello knew he wanted to work on rockets from a young age. As a high school student in New Jersey, he also had an awareness of Notre Dame, his dad being a big Notre Dame football fan. During the summer between his junior and senior years, Lampariello made the trip to campus for a three-week introductory engineering course which, he says, further fueled his passion for rocketry.
The following year he applied to Notre Dame as an aerospace engineering major and was admitted. When he arrived back on campus to begin his first year, Lampariello knew he had found the right balance between academics and community.
“In terms of coming to Notre Dame, I was looking for a school that had a sense of community and spirit,” he says.
Lampariello found exactly what he was looking for. Outside of his aerospace engineering studies, he found community in his campus residence, Alumni Hall. And he cherished the experiences he had as a manager for the men’s basketball team.
In fact, one of Lampariello’s favorite Notre Dame memories is of a basketball game during his senior year. “We went five overtimes against Louisville and it was wild to be on the sidelines for that,” he says.
Lampariello also has memories of long nights spent in the basement of Fitzpatrick Hall of Engineering.
This is where he and a group of fellow engineering majors worked on projects for the newly established ND Rocketry Team.
Lampariello and his friends founded the club in 2012. Each year, the ND Rocketry Team competes against teams from other schools in the NASA Student Launch, a rocket-building competition that culminates in a final launch in Huntsville, Alabama.
This year, the team celebrated its ten-year anniversary with its most successful launch to date, placing second in the NASA Student Launch competition.
In addition to the rocketry team, Lampariello and a group of friends helped start the Design, Build, Fly Team, which competes in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Design/Build/Fly aerospace design competition.
Both clubs helped shape his knowledge and experience outside of the classroom at Notre Dame.
After graduating in 2013, Lampariello went on to work in industry for United Launch Alliance, a rocket company based in Denver, Colorado. While there, he also pursued two master’s degrees at the University of Colorado, one in aerospace engineering and one in engineering management. There were “a lot of long nights,” says Lampariello, but it was worth it to pursue further education.
Now Lampariello is an aerospace engineer for Blue Origin. He does trajectory design for the company’s moon landing program, working on a lunar lander—”essentially to figure out how we’re going to get to the moon,” he explains.
His daily tasks involve the subject of orbital mechanics and he spends his time writing software programs, and using those others have written, to work out a path from one orbit around the earth to the surface of the moon.
“One thing I really like is that trajectory design leads to the rest of the design of the vehicle,” he says, and explains, “One way to think of it is, if you were going to drive across the country, you would want to plan your route before you picked what car you were going to take.”
While Lampariello loves what he does, he can also see himself teaching in the future. After COVID-19 hit the world in 2020 and internships and extracurricular experiences went on hiatus for a period, Lampariello decided he would help start things back up again by offering an opportunity to current Notre Dame students. He started a six-week summer program in which students design a lunar lander. The program has been popular and is growing every year.
Lampariello really enjoys teaching. “To me, the best thing is showing students something they wouldn’t otherwise learn in class,” he says. He also likes being able to mentor students, offering the perspective of someone who has worked in industry.
Extracurricular activities and moments outside of class were important to Lampariello when he was a student. “For me, one of the biggest parts of the ND experience were those experiences outside of the classroom. Staying up until midnight studying was hard, but it’s a lot better when you get to bond with your classmates. Now, here I am 10 years later, still good friends with the people I went to school with.”
In addition, these experiences got him where he wanted to go. “All the projects, between the rocketry team and the Design Build Fly Team set me up to get the kind of industry job I wanted,” he says. “Now I’m working on a moon lander. I couldn’t ask for a cooler job.”