Although he has only been out of high school for a few years, Summit High graduate Josh Allen is already making a name for himself in the world of physics.
The SHS Class of 2014 valedictorian attends Austin Peay State University where he is part of a team of researchers nicknamed the “Glass Group” who are exploring possible substitutes for crystalline materials in modern technology. His research has led him all the way to the Czech Republic to work with some of the world’s leading experts in glass production.
What led you to want to study physics in college?
I was originally intending to major in chemistry, but after taking AP physics my senior year, I began to waver in that resolve. After seeing the student environment present in the physics department, I decided to switch. Additionally, I’ve always been intrigued by the fundamentals. I enjoy starting with a small set of rules and problem solving from the ground up. Physics is attempting to take a complicated universe and break in down into small, manageable parts.
How would you explain the importance of the research you are conducting as part of the “Glass Group?”
Most of the advances seen in the modern world are built upon the advances of material science. They are based on humans taking full advantage of the properties of what is available to us, be it silicon, titanium or in my case chalcogenides. Materials research, such as what we do at Austin Peay, is the backbone of future technology.
What do you enjoy most about the work you are doing?
I most enjoy the freedom offered to me to come up with interesting solutions to problems. The fundamental issue with measurements is assuring that the measurement itself does not affect the thing in which you are attempting to measure. There is no set procedure on how to acquire the information we are looking for, instead the solutions must be formulated as a team, tested and revised.
What did you enjoy most about your high school experience?
I most enjoyed high school for its ability to teach me what a balance looks like in an academic life. I was able to achieve good grades while also holding a job and acting in the school plays. I made most of my enjoyable memories in high school from the freedom this balance provided. High school provided structure that was necessary at the time, and that I attempted to model in college once more of the onus fell to me. While this is all true, selfishly, my favorite part of high school was meeting my fiancé.
What WCS teacher made a difference in your life and how?
There are quite a list of teachers who poured into me, and for which I could never say thank you enough times… Ms. Erwin, Mr. Cherry and Ms. Rice to name a few. If I had to pick a single teacher it would be Mr. Lowry, my sophomore chemistry teacher and science bowl coach. Mr. Lowry was able to encourage my development without ever letting me believe that I was something special. As a child who had school come naturally, I was liable to let myself become prideful and lazy. Mr. Lowry was able to let me know that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did in a way that drove me to better myself, and which still does today.
Do you have any advice for current WCS students?
My advice for current WCS students is take advantage of the opportunities available to you now. They become harder to come by as you progress in life. Enjoy your time in high school but don’t pull your identity from it.
To read more about Josh’s work at Austin Peay State University, check out this article from their website.