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Jack Lesko

Director of Engineering Research

John “Jack” Lesko is the director of engineering research at the Roux Institute. He helps build the institute’s engineering research enterprise, which focuses on industry partnerships, translational research, and technology development to grow the technology economy in Portland, throughout Maine, and across the Northeast.

He is also a professor in Northeastern’s College of Engineering, in the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

Integrating research, learning, and entrepreneurship

Lesko’s background is at the interface of engineering research, learning, and entrepreneurship, which perfectly dovetails with the Roux Institute’s mission. He has more than 30 years of design and analytics experience as an engineer, with a background in polymer physics, mechanics, and interdisciplinary material system design and characterization.

His research and teaching focus on designing and creating new materials for all kinds of societal needs and products, including bridges, electrical systems for aircraft, and energy storage solutions for the smart grid. He also studies how to manufacture materials to be more durable, sustainable, and lighter weight, so that they are safer and more efficient for their environments as well as suitable for their intended lifespan. His more recent work features advanced manufacturing and supply chain systems; he’s collaborating with several Maine companies to scope and develop opportunities to automate and digitalize how to build resilience and increase capacity in their manufacturing processes. Supply-chain and manufacturing challenges wrought by the pandemic are a key focus area.

An entrepreneur himself, Lesko co-founded PowerHub Systems, an energy storage company acquired by Fermata Energy. He uses his startup experience to integrate problem-based learning into engineering education and entrepreneurship training. He was a co-principal investigator for the NSF I-Corps Mid-Atlantic Regional Node (DC I-Corps). He is also a national instructor for training programs that guide entrepreneurs through the Lean Launchpad startup approach which involves constantly testing and developing your business model based on customer feedback and iterating on the product based on what you learn.

Previous academic experience

Lesko came to the Roux Institute from Virginia Tech, where he was the Rolls-Royce Commonwealth Professor of Mechanical Engineering. His research focused on materials development and manufacturing, and his work contributed to new composite technologies for highway bridges. He also served at Virginia Tech as the associate dean for research and graduate studies and as a special assistant to the vice president of research. In September 2021, he was honored by Virginia Tech with the title of professor emeritus of mechanical engineering.

He earned his PhD and Master of Science in engineering mechanics from Virginia Tech and his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Lesko loves anything water-related and particularly enjoys coast sailing, diving, swimming, and fishing.


Materials development and manufacturing, and their structural design, reliability, and durability

Areas of interest:

  • polymer physics, mechanics, and interdisciplinary material system design/characterization
  • design of lightweight polymeric multifunctional composite materials and their structural design, durability, and reliability
  • implementation of in-service structures/systems using new multifunctional technologies and systems
  • desalination
  • renewable energy storage and smart grid technologies
  • advanced manufacturing
  • building energy efficiency, design and construction

Selected Publications

  • B. Vondrasek, C. Wen, S. Cheng, J. Riffle, J. Lesko, “Hydration, Ion Distribution, and Ionic Network Formation in Sulfonated Poly(arylene ether sulfones).” Macromolecules 2021, 54, 1, 302–315.
  • S. R. Choudhury, O. Lane, D. Kazerooni, G. S. Narang, E. Soung Jang, B. D. Freeman, J. J. Lesko, and J. S. Riffle. “Synthesis and characterization of post-sulfonated poly (arylene ether sulfone) membranes for potential applications in water desalination.” Polymer (2019).
  • R. M., Joseph, M. M. Merrick, R. Liu, A. C. Fraser, J. D. Moon, S. R. Choudhury, J. Lesko, B. D. Freeman, and J. S. Riffle. “Synthesis and characterization of polybenzimidazole membranes for gas separation with improved gas permeability: A grafting and blending approach.” Journal of Membrane Science 564 (2018): 587-597.
  • G.S. Narang, J.D. Moon, W. Zhang, G.C. Miller, S.R. Choudhury, A. Shaver, B. Vondrasek, J.J. Lesko, J. Fallona, M. Bortner, C. D’Ambra, B.D. Freeman, J.S. Riffle. “Synthesis and characterization of a phosphine oxide-based Poly (arylene ether ketone) and blends with poly (2, 6-dimethyl-1, 4-phenylene oxide) for gas separations.” Polymer 138 (2018): 156-168.