Last week, the University of Texas at Arlington announced Duane B. Dimos will be joining the university as vice president of research. That’s a big deal, not only for the university, but for North Texas as well. For the last 25 years, he’s been at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M. Sandia Natural Laboratories is one of the top science and engineering laboratories, pushing the envelope in a variety of areas, primarily national security and technology innovation. If you watched the FX series, Manhattan, Sandia traces its radioactive roots back to World War II and the Manhattan Project. Think Atomic Bomb.
Why the change? “There’s so much going on in Texas in terms of the strong business environment – there is strength in the defense, microelectronics, health care, information technology and energy sectors,” Dimos says. “There’s no question that we will be able to take full advantage of that environment to develop a leading edge research program at UT Arlington.” In case you haven’t noticed, UT Arlington has been on a roll the past few years. Under former university President James D. Spaniolo the school began a facelift that continues to this day. Others have taken note. In May 2013, UT Arlington was one of six nationwide to garner the “Next Generation University” accolade by the New America Foundation, a nonprofit focused on public policy. And the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching ranks UT Arlington as a Research University/High Research Activity. Total research activity at the school has more than tripled over the past 10 years and is steadily climbing toward an aggressive goal of exceeding $100 million within the next four years. At UT Arlington, Dimos will work closely with President Vistasp M. Karbhari (an engineer himself), faculty, staff and students to build on the university’s research and entrepreneurial enterprise, to foster commercialization of university intellectual property, and to ensure the scientific integrity of the research.
“The president has a real strong commitment to research,” says Dimos. “Now I want to connect with the business community so they can better understand what we’re doing.” Working with businesses, along with the various business incubators in the area, is part of that plan, he says. The university’s goal is to become what is defined as a Tier 1 school. Tier 1 status is usually defined as schools that receive at least $100 million each year in research grants, have selective admissions and low student-faculty ratios and competitive faculty salaries. Texas currently has four top-tier research institutions: UT Austin, Texas A&M, the University of Houston and Rice University. In North Texas, UT Arlington, UT Dallas and the University of North Texas are on the hunt to reach that level. Dimos’ goal will bring UT Arlington into the mix. He’s certainly got the bona fides. He earned his undergraduate degree in physics with highest honors from the University of California, Berkeley, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in materials science and engineering from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. “I got real excited about physics in high school,” he says.
He then worked as a senior scientist in private industry and later as a postdoctoral scientist for IBM’s Research Division in New York before joining Sandia in 1990. Dimos is an expert in materials science and engineering who has published more than 140 technical papers and holds 11 patents. At Sandia, he has been actively involved in nanotechnologies, leading programs in materials aging and reliability, developing new energy programs in materials and in a range of national security research and development efforts. He was recruited through a highly competitive national search. Though he has partnered with the University of Texas System in research, he wasn’t fully aware of UT Arlington until he was approached by a recruiter. “The more I learned about the school and the more I thought about it, the more excited I got,” he says. “There are some very nice pieces to build on.” Among those pieces, Dimos expects a few focus areas. Among them are advanced computing and information technology, biotechnology and health care, advanced manufacturing and materials and energy technologies. “Those seem like some obvious ones, but I’m sure there are others,” he says. Dimos officially begins April 1.