Dr. Tony Dean
Involvement at Mines
: Dr. Dean will be retiring from the Senior VP of Research and Technology Transfer position in June 2017.
President’s Council, Century Society
What is your favorite part of Mines?
The thing that made it really neat to go to work in the morning was the interaction with the students. On a certain level you have an interaction with the undergraduates but there you have a large number in a class and you will get to know a small subset of them pretty well but that is a qualitative difference from what happens with your own research group because you then are interacting every day for years with these grad students and postdocs. I was incredibly fortunate, all the way through, to have group members who really viewed it as an opportunity to not only learn their particular specialty but also to help the others in the group.
As you leave here, what are you most excited for Mines in the future?
I am actually very optimistic about the future. The future is going to be even more competitive than it was in the past but I think the school’s really on the right track. One of the interesting things about President Paul Johnson in this particular context is that he really recognizes that complacency is not appropriate. We really need to try and think about doing things differently. What really appeals to me, in terms of moving ahead, is continuing this thrust of a distinctive educational experience. I think we have an opportunity to do just this; it’s currently targeted appropriately at the undergraduates but we really need to make sure we have that same type of distinctive experience for the graduate students.
When you tell your grandkids about your time at Mines, what are you most proud to say you were part of?
I have been interested literally since the early 80s in one particular problem. The problem really relates to what happens when you burn a fuel. One of the things that happens is you make soot. I mean you see the soot plumes as trucks go up the hills. I have always been fascinated about trying to understand, in a fundamental way, how when this fuel breaks apart into smaller fragments and you suddenly make the much bigger soot species. Normally what happens when you look at a system like this at high temperature is that things want to fall apart. But here at high temperature the opposite happens. It turns out this is an area where there have been all types of empirical explanations, none of which were satisfying. What has been really neat is in about the last five years we think we have an honest to God answer for how the growth process happens and that is the thing that will be nice on some level to tell the grandkids. We have removed some of the mysticism in this particular area––now I think others will be in a position to take this more fundamental understanding of the process to find better ways to mitigate soot formation.
What’s next for you after retiring?
We are going to move to Washington, D.C.; three of our children and eight of our grandchildren are there. The other advantage of going to Washington is that I have been involved with energy my whole life. There will be ample opportunities in D.C. to perhaps get connected with organizations involved in energy research. I joke with President Johnson in the sense that I view my stint in D.C. as an opportunity to be an unofficial ambassador for Mines. I am actually looking forward to things I can do, in any small way, to try and advance the institution.