individual being profiled

Humans of Duke: Alex Dillon

Name: Alex Dillon

Year: 2020

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Hometown: Hollywood, MD


What makes you smile?

I’m happiest when I’m dancing. It’s one thing that’s always been there for me, as a creative outlet, a stress outlet, and a change of pace from the rest of my busy days. Dance helps me clear my mind of everything. I can just enjoy the talents I’ve been given and the people I’m dancing with; it never fails to put a smile on my face.


What is one thing on your bucket list?

I want to take flight lessons. It seems like such a fun and different thing to learn, and I’ve always been interested in planes since I grew up near a Naval Aviation base.


What’s your favorite smell?

In the springtime right after it rains, everything smells so fresh and new. I love to just walk outside and take it in. The smell is peaceful and calming to me.


What do you admire most about a person?

I admire honesty. I hold a lot of respect for people when they are able to show that, no matter how easy or tough a conversation may be, they are willing to have that conversation and tell the truth. I feel that it shares a lot about their character and how they treat others. It makes me feel like the other person holds my dignity and self-worth in high esteem and isn’t looking for an easy way out. It’s amazing that such a simple concept can be so difficult, and as cheesy as it sounds, honesty really does go a long way.


What risks are worth taking?

I think taking risks for the people you love and what you believe in are absolutely worth taking. It’s important to fight for what matters to you, because those are the things that contribute to a sense of purpose in life. Showing vulnerability and opening up can be extremely difficult, and at times hurtful, but the ultimate reward that comes from this vulnerability-- the intense, connected the relationships-- is more than worth it.


What made you want to be an engineer?

I had never had any experience with actual hands on engineering until Duke, but I knew I wanted to be an engineer to make my skills and knowledge available to others in the form of technology. Engineering finally lets you apply all the math and science subject matter you have learned all your life, and I think it’s a career that shows real, visible changes to the world.


Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I picture myself working as a mechanical engineer with the Navy, either in the Weapons division or Aviation division. I plan to be working with different materials testing, being in the lab with smaller parts that have failed, discovering why they may have failed and how to prevent it, and also watching the larger fully assembled machine tests to find problems that need further analysis.


What’s one thing you would tell this year’s freshmen class?

Duke is hard. The classes are difficult, everyone seems to have their lives all figured out, and there’s a lot of pressure to do everything. Don’t cave to that pressure. If you know what you want to do and what clubs to join, that’s amazing and you should go for it. If you have no idea, take the time to figure it out. Add one thing at a time, that way you don’t overwork yourself. This really is your time to figure out what you value, and it’s important not to rush it. There are a lot of resources on campus to help with this transition and you should never be afraid to use them.


Why did you decide Duke?

There’s the more universal reasons, like how beautiful the architecture is, that view of the Chapel as you drive up to campus, and the quality of education that Duke has to offer, but also I was hooked on the experiences that were to be offered. The diversity of people and opinions was intriguing, and I knew I would learn a lot outside of class by being here. I also loved the flexibility that Duke showed with combining unlike interests. I’ve met so many people here have talents outside of their majors, and as a dancer going into engineering, I wanted to be sure I could continue with both, and I saw that Duke was able to offer that.


What is your favorite Duke memory?

There have been so many amazing moments throughout my Duke career, but performing at Countdown my freshman year is still my favorite. Every time I think back to it, I feel the same excitement and adrenaline that I felt before running out onto the court for my first time as a Dancing Devil. The atmosphere in Cameron was unlike anything I had ever experienced before, and I instantly loved it. Each time I go back to perform at a game, I think back to that first time and realize how insanely lucky I am to be given such a unique opportunity.