10 Questions with Assistant Professor Tony Reames

Originally published: 
February, 2017

As a multidisciplinary scholar, with degrees in engineering and social science, Assistant Professor Reames' research agenda seeks to connect the areas of technological advancement, the policy process, and social equity. His research extends the environmental justice scholarship to focus on energy justice. He is currently exploring disparities in residential energy generation, consumption, and affordability- focusing on the production and persistence of inequality by race, class, and place.

Our first question to faculty is usually “What inspired you to pursue a career in this field?” We encourage you to learn Dr. Reames’ poignant answer to that question in our recent article and video, “Dr. Tony Reames brings a community approach to Energy Justice.”

1. What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
I think the most adventurous thing I've done—and the most exciting place I've been—would be my two trips to Greenland. During my Ph.D. studies, I was on a NSF fellowship, and part of the research was in the Arctic. So, I went to Greenland, presented research on the urban heat island in the capital Nuuk. Going out on a boat and eating whale, seeing icebergs, glaciers, and walking on the ice sheet…yes, that was probably the most exciting thing I’ve done.

2. What is the greatest piece of advice that someone ever gave you?
I believe the greatest piece of advice I've ever gotten is: Be confident in your training and in your knowledge. Essentially, be confident that you know the stuff you're putting out. As a new Ph.D. especially, you’re often wary about speaking as an authority. So, you need to build your confidence, and trust that you've been well trained. That's the message I try to relay to my students when they question themselves. Just take a step back and think about what you know, and let that push you forward.

Actually, I had an earlier experience with this. When I went into the Army as a young lieutenant in my 20s, some of my soldiers were my parent’s age, and I was their officer. So, I had to learn—very quickly—how to get them to listen to me. That was a confidence builder.

3. Who is your biggest hero?
My biggest hero is George Washington Carver. I try to model my thoughts about research after his work—in the sense that my research should have impacts on society. I also try to model myself after the way he taught, and the way he could build a cohort of students that follow that same mantra—that research has societal impacts.

4. What is the most used app on your phone?
Yelp. I always go to Yelp when I'm thinking about something to eat. I use it here in Ann Arbor, in Detroit, and when I’m traveling.

5. What is your favorite outdoor activity?
I like walking the numerous trails in SE Michigan and riding my bike.

6. What was your first job?
When I was fifteen, my first job was working at a hotel in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In the small town I lived in, many people took a bus to the beach for work. And so, during one summer, I would catch a bus at 6 a.m. to pull hotel sheets and send them to the laundry. But when I got off work, I had time to walk on the beach before the bus came back. That’s really why I wanted that job.

7. When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I played with Lego blocks all the time, so I saw myself becoming an architect. That’s what led me to civil engineering—because I like to design stuff, but realized it didn’t have to be buildings. 

8. What’s the greatest challenge in your work?
I think the greatest challenge in studying anything that deals with inequality is understanding that the problem persists, and that what you're doing only plays a small role in addressing the larger forces that cause the issues. So, it can be a little disheartening, because you're not going to see immediate changes. But you have to remember that you are a part of the solutions process. 

9. Name a place in the world that you’d most like to visit for the first time.
I would love to visit Australia. That's always been on my list. I’d like to see the kangaroos and koala bears.

10. What’s your favorite restaurant in Detroit or Ann Arbor?
My favorite restaurant is Buddy’s Pizza - home of the original Detroit-style square pizza.