The Future Face of Physics

16-Year-Old is Enrolled and Ready to Get Started on Doctoral Research

Sept. 5, 2008

“I know that ‘One of the youngest Ph.D. students in the nation will attend the University of Texas at Dallas’ is part of my story,” said 16-year-old student Austin Howard.

“But the truth is there would be no story to tell without the dedicated individuals that helped me throughout my journey, resulting in the decision to come to UT Dallas.”

His short list of graduate schools had included Rice, MIT and Cornell. He is starting his Ph.D. studies in physics at UT Dallas this fall.

Howard graduated from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, with a school-leading 4.00 GPA. The summa cum laude graduate majored in physics, minored in mathematics and wrapped up his undergraduate studies in a scant three years.

He attended public school through the seventh grade, when, at age 12, he took the ACT College Entrance Exam and scored within the top percentile. His test scores, considered “highly selective,” allowed him to enter college full time at age 13, where he was by far the youngest person in the three physics labs he later taught.

He busied himself with three semester-long problems courses, studied alternative energy and joined professional and academic organizations, including a term as president of the Society of Physics Students.

He plans to join a research lab once he determines his area of specialization. More about his plans and influences:

Why did you decide to attend UT Dallas?

One evening, as an undergraduate student, I was watching a Science Channel piece with Dr. Ray Baughman and the NanoTech Institute at UT Dallas. My short list of graduate schools had consisted of Rice, M.I.T. and Cornell—now it included UT Dallas. I visited the University in the summer of 2007 and met Mrs. Marjorie Renfrow, Dr. Anvar Zakhidov and Dr. Kyeongjae Cho, among others, who were professional and extremely generous with their time.

This “Texas Friendly” approach to recruitment, along with the many outstanding research programs, made The University of Texas at Dallas my first choice.

What about the graduate program specifically prompted you to do your Ph.D. work at UT Dallas?

One thing that made UT Dallas so appealing to me was the obvious commitment and the invested dollars for the current and future growth of the University. The new Natural Science and Engineering Research Lab is a wonderful facility that I personally look forward to working and learning in along with the world-class faculty that are part of UT Dallas. In addition, the size of the University is large enough to allow a graduate student to have plenty of opportunities, yet it is small enough that I should be able to have a personal interaction with my professors and, eventually, my Ph. D. adviser.

What would you like to accomplish while you’re here?

My plan is to maintain my carpe diem approach to life. I have many goals to accomplish during my time here, the most obvious being obtaining my Ph. D. in physics in the most efficient and timely manner possible. In doing so, I hope to develop academic relationships and friendships that last a lifetime. I would also like to continue my volunteerism by serving the community of Richardson in music and civic-minded duties.

What are your specific areas of research interest?

At this point, my interests are in nanotechnology, micro-and nano-electronics and in alternative energy production and storage, all of which are important research fields here at UT Dallas. Generally, I tend to gravitate to areas of specialization that afford direct application to technology and society, which usually tend to be interdisciplinary or spanning several branches of science.

How do you plan to spend your free time?

I am not actually sure how much “free time” I will have. However, I have been advised time and time again by everyone I have met who has been through what I am about to experience to make time for free time. Fortunately, I am a classically trained pianist, composer and organist, and for many years have given volunteer performances at full-care and assisted-living senior care facilities, as well as churches. I enjoy swimming, biking and hiking.

Anything else you’d care to comment on?

I would like to express my genuine appreciation for all of those who have been a part of my journey. Fortunately, my young age has never prejudiced any doors from opening. The open-mindedness of The University of Texas at Dallas in accepting me in the physics graduate program based on my character and scholastic achievements and affording me this exciting next chapter of my life is very gratifying, and I look forward to the day when I can proudly say I am a UT Dallas Alumnus.

Media Contacts: Brandon V. Webb, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected]
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected]

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Austin Howard

“I look forward to the day when I can proudly say I am a UTD alumnus,” 16-year-old doctoral physics student Austin Howard says.


Accomplished Beyond Years

Austin Howard's honors so far have included:

•President’s Education Award, US Department of Education.

•President’s Medal of Excellence, Midwestern State University (MSU), Wichita Falls.

•MSU Outstanding Sophomore Man of the Year.

•Wichita Falls Symphony League Award for Musical Excellence (piano)

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November 18, 2019