Alumni Profiles Series: Dennis Gilmore

 December 6, 2018

Headshot of Dennis Gilmore

Dennis Gilmore received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Duke University and is currently Senior Director at RTI International’s Center of Technology for Energy, Environment and Engineering. He has been involved in research and innovation throughout his career and has championed the development of technology that has resulted in the commercialization of over 200 new products for large, international chemical companies. Dennis is a strong advocate for research collaboration between universities and industry.  

How has your Duke education prepared you for your professional career?

The most beneficial part of my Duke education has been the broad base of understanding that I have gained. I had a thorough and well-rounded education in the chemistry program at Duke, and it has prepared me greatly for the work I do on a daily basis with engineers, biologists, and physicists, for example.

Could you describe what your career path has entailed since you graduated?

My career path has taken me all over the country and even overseas. I have lived in eight different locations as I progressed from a starting research chemistry position to management. Through my progression, I have broadened my career and gained valuable exposure to many aspects of industry. I learned more about the technical arm as well as product development. The most rewarding parts of my career have been in product development, where I can see the impact of science on society.

As you began your career, did you envision a particular trajectory for yourself?

Initially I thought I might pursue a postdoctoral position. I submitted an NIH proposal and it was accepted. However, ultimately I decided to move into industry. Industry was a great fit for me because it gave me the opportunity to do both research and business.

What responsibilities do you have at your current position?

I am the Senior Director at RTI International’s Center of Technology for Energy, Environment and Engineering. I oversee growth in the company as well as research and employees. We are dedicated to technological developments at the forefront of energy, environment, and engineering.

Were you surprised by any elements of your job?

At RTI, I am involved with breakthroughs in global warming, and there have been several surprising elements in this work. One major realization for me is how truly significant global warming is. We are attempting to solve this problem at RTI through carbon-negative emissions. This is a huge problem to tackle and it will take a massive effort to resolve the problem. It is essential that more people in the world understand how big an issue carbon dioxide in the environment is. As we think about this issue, we must define a new role for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as a source of carbon for the future.

Would you have imagined yourself in your current position when you first graduated?

Definitely not. When I first graduated, I saw myself as a research chemist. I enjoyed being at the forefront of research, analysis, and interpretation. I still enjoy these things, but I enjoy them from a distance as a manager of people who do the things I loved to do. It allows me to see and experience more through my employees.

What was your favorite memory at Duke?

My most cherished memories at Duke were times I spent with my wife and friends. My wife and I met here as graduate students. With our friends, we always found ways to have fun, both in and out of lab. In particular, we enjoyed playing softball with the departmental team, where we competed with other departments as well. We also found creative ways to have fun in lab. One memory that comes to mind is when another graduate student and I acquired a weather balloon. We tied a magnesium strip to the balloon, ignited it, and let it fly from the roof of Gross Hall.

Do you have any advice for current students?

Cherish the time you have at Duke because you will find it to be the most intellectually stimulating environment that you will ever experience. It may not always be easy or enjoyable, but find time to be thankful for the experience.


Headshot of Paige Daniel
Paige Daniel, Ph.D.

Recent graduate, Chemistry

Dr. Paige Daniel received her Ph.D. in Chemistry at Duke University where she was also the Co-President for Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE). While at Duke, she developed methodology for synthesis of amine building blocks in the laboratory of Dr. Steven Malcolmson.