1994 Distinguished Lecture Series: Scott Cowley

Scott Cowley


Scott CowleyScott Cowley¬†received a B.S. in Chemistry from Utah State University in 1967, and a M.S. in Physical Organic Chemistry from Utah State in 1972, under the direction of Grant Gill Smith, studying the “High Temperature Thermal Decomposition of Organic Compounds.” He received a Ph.D. in 1975 from Southern Illinois University in Physical Organic Chemistry, under the direction of Gerard V. Smith studying the “Mechanism for the Catalytic Hydrodesulfurization of Thiophene.” Dr. Cowley then served in a Postdoctoral position at the University of Utah in Catalysis with Frank Massoth studying the “Mechanism of Catalytic Hydrodesulfurizationand Catalytic Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis of Olefins.” From 1976-79 he was an assistant professor of Fuels Engineering at the University of Utah. He has been at Mines in the Department of Chemistry since 1979.

Dr. Cowley’s current research interest is Reaction Chemistry at Solid Surfaces as applied to: 1) Heterogeneous Catalysis-which addresses a broad range of refining, automotive, aerospace, chemical detection, and environmental problems; 2) Electrophotography-as related to laser printers and photocopier technology; and 3) Surface Analysis-as related to catalysis, sorption, corrosion, and surface chemistry.

Dr. Cowley’s professional activities have included serving as: President of the Western States Catalysis Society, 1996-2001; Program Chairman of the North American Catalysis Society, 1995; and Past President of the Rocky Mountain Fuel Society. Over his career he has received the following honors: Marathon Oil Industrial Fellowship Award, 1981; Mines Faculty Senate Distinguished Lecturer, 1994; Alumni Lecturer for the Chemistry Department at Southern Illinois University; 2001; and Outstanding Graduate Professor Award for the Mines Chemistry Department.

Other interests of Dr. Cowley’s include: performing chemistry magic shows for high, middle, and elementary schools; singing tenor with various choral groups; and playing racketball, tennis, and bicycle riding.


During this presentation, Dr. Cowley, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Geochemistry and member of the Materials Science Division, spun yarns about Chester F. Carlson, inventor of the xerography process in 1937, and how a small company named Haloid (known today as Xerox) successfully marketed Carlson’s invention.

The development of the xerographic process faced many technological challenges that could not be met from one field of science or engineering. Laser printers and photocopiers are examples of a marvelous technology that resulted by combining the expertise of researchers from the fields of material science, chemistry, physics, and mechanical engineering. Dr. Cowley explained the principles behind the xerography process and how it applies to photocopiers and laser printers.

Although material and mechanical designs have improved dramatically over the years, continued enhancement is required in order to remain competitive in a tight market. In order to develop improved materials, researchers are continually seeking a better fundamental understanding of how these materials function and how they fail. Dr. Cowley discussed an example of research at Mines and how that information was used to improve performance of a photoconducting film used in laser printers. He also predicted where this technology is headed in the near future.