by Bryan Lindenberger

Mainstream physics news often sounds alien to our daily reality. From the very faraway – such as astrophysics – to the very tiny – as in particle physics – these strange and often mysterious stories overshadow the fact that physics is part of our ordinary lives.

Joshua HarwellFew know this “real world” approach to physics better than University of West Georgia alum Joshua Harwell. Within only weeks of graduation, he began a career with the University of Dayton Ohio Research Institute at the new Air Force Advanced Technology and Training Center in Warner Robins, Georgia.

Harwell credits his choice of UWG’s College of Science and Mathematics for his success.

A former Navy logistics specialist for Strike Fighter Squadron 87 (VFA-87), Harwell knew going into college the kind of innovative, hands-on experience he sought in a physics degree program.

“I wanted to take every opportunity for hands-on research,” Harwell said. He soon found those opportunities by getting to know his professors. “The advantage of physics at UWG is that it’s a tight-knit group. All my professors had time to assist me on a one-on-one basis.”

A winter 2018 graduate, Harwell has applied his advanced research to knowledge that improves our lives in ways we rarely stop to consider. He has worked in everything from product quality control at Southwire to researching semiconductors for better conductivity in solar cells.

“Mr. Harwell has contributed tremendously to recently published paper in ‘Physica Solidi Status A’ published in 2017,” said Dr. Ajith DeSilva, assistant professor of physics. “Publishing a paper in a high impact journal is an outstanding accomplishment for an undergraduate student.”

This research involves the highly technical development of materials with enhanced electrical properties and could lead to applications in sustainable energy and related fields.

Harwell has presented his findings at multiple conferences. These experiences, in turn, have led to even further hands-on learning through an internship at Southwire on a metallurgy team.

“We do in-depth, metallurgic analysis of wire for quality control,” Harwell said, enthused by his year-and-a-half internship. “Getting my hands on all that equipment and having the experience in research and development has been really beneficial in preparing me for my career.”

But life isn’t all work for Joshua Harwell. In fact, part of what made UWG the right fit for this Bremen High School graduate is the rich culture the city of Carrollton has to offer.

“It’s a great community,” Harwell said. “I go to the square often. I like to play trivia at the Irish Bred Bar & Grill, and I go to Gallery Row to play chess. I’ve made a lot of friends here in Carrollton.”

At his new job with the Air Force Advanced Technology and Training Center, Harwell and his team research manufacturing methods to 3D print aircraft parts from polymers and powdered metals, using the skills lab work taught him at UWG.

Photography by Melanie Fan

Posted on Jan. 25, 2019