Research Fellow
Patrick Tepesch

Research Fellow Patrick Tepesch: “Every day I get to learn”

Research Fellow Patrick Tepesch: “Every day I get to learn”

For Patrick Tepesch, learning begins with a few people in a lab, working together to create a material with highly specific properties. 

When that same experimental material turns out to be a phenomenal solution – one that can scale up to massive manufacturing output for customers all over the world – “it’s an amazing feeling,” said Patrick, a Research Fellow since 2021. “Most fulfilling for me is being part of a team of people who are all working toward the same goal – whether it’s just a few scientists and technicians, or a huge team of hundreds of people, making sure it will work for customers and be profitable for Corning.

“That’s an incredible experience. There’s really nothing like it.”

Patrick has experienced this several times over the course of his 25 years at Corning.

Working with Steve Ogunwumi in the early 2000s, Patrick helped develop the aluminum titanate-based ceramic composition that would be used in Corning Environmental Technologies’ line of diesel particulate filters. Several other iterations of clean-air products started with Patrick and his lab partners “making tiny little samples – and then seeing that same material, or something very similar to it, being made into millions of parts going out into the world.”

What Patrick describes as “fun” has a serious purpose in Corning’s technical community. He and his colleagues are passionate about learning together, freely sharing observations, knowledge, and expertise. Within the technology community, that’s the key to solving tough material science problems.

“It’s not hard for me to stay motivated, because every day I get to learn something new, and I really enjoy that,” he said. “I get paid to learn, and hopefully it turns into something useful.”

Midwestern beginnings

Patrick grew up in Kansas City and went to Missouri University of Science & Technology, where he studied ceramic engineering.

“I didn't really know what engineering was when I went to college,” Patrick said. “All I knew was that I really liked science and I was okay at math.” 

He soon learned that ceramic engineering brought together the study of both physics and chemistry, which fueled his budding passion for materials science.

A string of influential professors pointed Patrick in the direction of thermodynamics and scientific modelling – and his future career began to take shape. 

An insatiable learner, he then went on to a doctoral program at MIT, where he spent five years developing models for predicting thermodynamic properties of oxide materials. He pursued post-doctorate work at Sandia National Labs in California, working on modeling and predicting the structure and energy of surfaces and interfaces. He and his wife had twin daughters while living in California in 1996.

Like many young Ph.D.'s, Patrick considered becoming a university professor. But when he was given the opportunity to work at Corning, he felt that it would be an exciting work environment that would have the added benefit of bringing his family closer to his wife’s relatives in Connecticut. He joined the research organization at Sullivan Park in 1998.

And for someone who values learning new things, the adventure was just beginning.

Working at Corning 

Patrick’s early work at Corning focused on modeling. After a few years, he returned to his roots to focus almost exclusively on ceramic engineering and experimentation – work that he continues to this day.

Over the years, he has developed strong expertise in ceramics processing and properties, especially microcracked and porous ceramics. He helped deepen Corning’s fundamental understanding of material behavior, applying this knowledge to the discovery of novel materials. His critical role in building a robust material portfolio for Environmental Technologies remains one of the hallmarks of his career, leading to the distinction of Senior Research Associate in 2013.

Other businesses have benefited from his discoveries as well. His work on thin-sheet ceramics, for example, is supporting Corning’s development of ribbon ceramics materials for various applications, including clean energy production. He has also helped develop porous ceramic arrays for life science applications.

For Patrick, every new scientific challenge is an opportunity to learn more. “It’s an amazing place to be when you want to keep learning,” he said. “There’s such a concentration of highly skilled and educated people here, and to be able to work with them is an amazing opportunity.”

Outside interests relate to innovation, too

Patrick enjoys giving back to the Corning community, driven by his love for family and friends. Not surprisingly, environmental issues are a high priority.

“Something that's important to me is trying to work toward a sustainable human society. I try not to pretend to know exactly what that means, but I have thought a lot about what is sustainable and what's not,” he said.

He gives lectures about sustainability, both at Corning and in the community. He remains true to the cause and was one of the early adopters of hybrid vehicles at S&T. A decade ago, he was driving his 2012 Chevrolet Volt to work and fielding co-worker’s questions about green energy solutions.

Conversations like those – even in the parking lot – lead to more learning and more potential areas for Corning to apply its material science know-how. 

“Examining what is sustainable, and what is not, is a way for us to find good things to work on and could potentially lead us to successful products in the future.”