The University of Texas at Austin
  • Leon Dean: A Moment of Discovery

    Published: May 13, 2013

    Leon Dean had been working on “block copolymers,” self-assembling nanomaterials that can be used to pattern silicon wafers, for more than a year. But he knew only failure in trying to get them them to self-assemble into the right pattern — before it finally happened.

    “For the first time I saw perpendicular lines everywhere on the surface on the film. I had never seen anything like it. I remember running upstairs, telling Chris [Bates], my graduate student supervisor, ‘Hey, you gotta come see this.’”

    You never know if what you do is going to work, because if you did it wouldn’t be science.”

    It was an extraordinary moment of discovery for the native of Spokane, Washington, who is graduating with a degree in chemical engineering, and is the son, grandson and great-grandson of engineers.

    The breakthrough, which was performed in the lab of chemistry and chemical engineering professor C. Grant Willson, led to a few rather significant consequences (read about their collaboration here).

    Dean is now co-author on a research paper that was published in Science, one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world. The overall process that Willson’s lab has developed is being field-tested by a major manufacturer of hard disk drives and may lead to a fivefold increase in the disk’s storage capacity.

    And the record of accomplishment probably won’t hurt when it’s time for Dean to apply to graduate school, which he plans to attend in two years, after taking some time to attend bible school.

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    • Quote 2
      Miranda T. said on May 29, 2013 at 1:20 p.m.
      I have been looking at the chemical engineering program at UT for graduate school and ran across this post. I am so impressed and was very excited to read the last paragraph regarding bible school. You will not regret your choice. I hope to see you at the semi-annual training this December!
    • Quote 2
      Michael P said on May 20, 2013 at 6:29 p.m.
      Leon is a great example of what makes U T great - both in the classroom, and outside the classroom. So proud he will be representing U T as he starts his career. Michael Poehl
    • Quote 2
      Leon said on May 18, 2013 at 8:48 p.m.
      Hi Sally, thanks for the comment. I will be attending bible school in Anaheim this fall, but I plan to come back and visit.
    • Quote 2
      Sally said on May 15, 2013 at 11:41 a.m.
      Hey Leon, Let me know if you'll be staying in Austin for Bible school so we can have you come talk to our group in the fall.
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