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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Dillon

Coming straight out of the fire (or rather the study of objects in fire) at Sandia National Laboratories, assistant professor Dr. Christopher Dillon is bringing his heat transfer expertise to the Brigham Young University Mechanical Engineering department.

Becoming a professor is a dream come true for Dillon. Both of his parents are teachers, and it was their example that instilled his desire to teach. This desire, as well as his focus in heat transfer, was solidified by his experiences with great professors in mechanical engineering when he was a student.

“I had a great heat transfer professor and the subject came alive when I took that class,” Dillon said. “I like seeing how it’s something we experience all around us without thinking about it all the time. ”

Dr. Dillon’s educational journey sent him to the other side of the university rivalry. He studied biomedical engineering at the University of Utah, and did a postdoc in their radiology department working on focused ultrasound. His research is in thermal therapy — using heat to destroy diseased tissue.

“If you have a high enough intensity to heat up and destroy the tissue where your disease is, you can treat the disease without using any scalpels or surgery,” Dr. Dillon said. “It's been shown to be really effective and can be used for a lot of different things. My goal is to plan and optimize these treatments.”

Hoping to get some experience outside of academia, a job opportunity took Dillon’s heat transfer experience in a completely different direction — to Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM. Instead of using heat to get rid of something inside the body, at Sandia he studied how to keep it out; optimizing the design of cargo trailers to protect the contents against fires.

Of all his accomplishments and experiences, what Dr. Dillon is most grateful for in his career thus far is the people he’s had the opportunity to associate with.

“Being part of a good team and surrounded by good people changes everything. When you work with people you enjoy, it’s much more enjoyable, obviously, but you’re also much more effective,” Dr. Dillon said. “It’s not just about finding a good team to be a part of, but being a good team member, and working hard and doing your best to contribute to the success of the team.”

The opportunity to be a part of the mechanical engineering team is one of the reasons he decided to return to BYU after four years at Sandia.

“When I was a student, I saw in my mentors and faculty that engineering and gospel living aren’t separate parts of our lives, but that we can be much better engineers when we allow the gospel to help us in our lives,” Dillon said. “By having the spirit, the light of the gospel can shine on what it is you’re doing, making you more effective engineers. Seeing how my professors did that gave me something to strive for in my own life, and now share with new students so they can go out and make their own impact in the world.”

BYU isn’t just his alma mater, but is also where Dr. Dillon met his wife while she was studying dietetics. They started as acquaintances through ballroom dance, became study partners in a human physiology class, and are now raising three girls and a baby boy together. They still dance together in the kitchen as they try out recipes from The Great British Baking Show.

Mountain biking and other sports and children's literature are some of the passions he pursues outside of the office. He loves Roald Dahl, and is enjoying raising his daughters on books such as "The BFG" that he grew up on.

Dr. Dillon emphasized the importance of working hard to keep the gospel, his home life, and his work life balanced and complementary to each other.

“How you face doing work and how you enjoy it makes a huge difference in the quality of your life and the quality of your work," Dillon said. “That’s something I have to continually remind myself of; that if you do your best, and you work hard, the Lord makes up the difference.”