Profile: Life in the Fast Lane: GM Engine Designer

lesterAs a boy tinkering in his stepfather’s auto repair shop in Maryland, Dom Lester ’99 dreamed of racing fast cars. “I always wanted not only to race but to design my own engines and have my own shop.”

These days Lester is living his dreams. At GM, he’s been designing, testing, and validating engines for 15 years. He currently manages a team of 15 development and validation engineers for the company’s high-feature V6 program.

He’s secured four patents—including one for a powerful, energy-efficient cylinder head that led to his receiving the “Boss” Kettering Award in 2010, GM’s highest award for technical innovation.

In his backyard, Lester really revs things up. He co-runs L&L Racing Engines, which he founded in 2007. L&L custom-builds performance engines for small-block and big-block Chevy dragsters.

He races top dragsters at National Hot Rod Association and International Hot Rod Association events in the Midwest and Middle Atlantic. His personal best time is 1/4 mile in 6.8 seconds—about 208 mph. “My wife [Danielle Lester] says she closes her eyes for 6.8 seconds,” he jokes.

On College Hill, Lester learned the theory behind the internal combustion engine. Classes in the engine lab shifted his interest into high gear. As an undergrad, Lester interned for three summers at Chrysler and was hired by the company after graduation.
During senior year, he and a team of classmates placed third in the Society of Automotive Engineers regional mini-Baja competition, for which the team had to design, build, test, promote, and race a 10-horsepower off-road vehicle. “Every part of the car was graded, and the overall average from each category was the final score,” says Lester, a mechanical engineering graduate with a master’s in mechanical engineering from Oakland University.

Perhaps what keeps him running fastest these days is his 1-year-old daughter, Allison. “Since my wife works for Chrysler, and I work for GM, we think she might end up working for Ford, so we have the Big Three covered.”
—Samuel T. Clover ’91

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