Josh Carroll ’17
When asked what he remembered the most about his Radford University experience, Josh Carroll ’17 laughed.
“I remember working on homework late into the night inside the planetarium,” he says. “Saturn is projected onto the dome and I’m sitting in there working on quantum mechanics.
“I definitely had a college experience like no one else’s.”
Carroll’s journey to Radford University was also like no one else’s.
Growing up in the New River Valley, Carroll was fascinated with space and the sciences.
“I have always wanted to work in the sciences, but breaking in is very difficult,” he explains. “It is a very competitive field.”
Carroll put his astronomical dreams on hold when, as a freshman at Blacksburg High School, he witnessed the September 11 attacks. After the attacks, Carroll became so focused on joining the military that his grades began to suffer greatly. After his junior year, Carroll dropped out of high school, got his General Education Development certificate and enlisted in the Army.
As a light infantryman, Carroll was deployed to Iraq three times, serving with an infantry unit that escorted and protected convoys. Carroll was tasked as a scout gunner who had to scan routes for all threats, including improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
Upon returning stateside, Carroll began taking classes at New River Community College in an effort to pursue a career in the sciences.
“I was interested in studying physics because I had a desire to know more about the universe,” Carroll says. “I also knew obtaining a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degree would open a lot of doors for me.”
Unfortunately, the GI Bill, which Carroll was using to fund his education, is strict in its timeframe to complete a degree program. Recognizing how far behind he was in his mathematics education, Carroll began to watch math courses on YouTube while he worked as a security guard at a retirement facility.
Carroll’s YouTube education allowed him to skip the required remedial math courses and into pre-calculus, where he “passed with the highest grade in the class.”
Upon finishing the community college portion of his education, Carroll enrolled at Radford University in spring 2015 as a physics major, with minors in math and astronomy.
“Attending Radford was an easy decision for me,” he explained. “I grew up in the area, and the cost to attend was reasonable.
“I also knew the class size at Radford University would be smaller. Since I was coming back after being out of school for 10 years, class size was important to me.”
Carroll continues, “I knew that, at Radford, I would be able to have a one-on-one relationship with my professors, and that it would offer me opportunities that I would not have at other universities.”
Among the opportunities open to him was the Physics & Astronomy Club, of which Carroll served as the vice president. During his tenure, Carroll spearheaded a trip to New York City’s Hayden Planetarium, home to world-renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
“As a physics student, our homework centered on profound questions, like the birth and the age of the universe,” Carroll explains.
“It was such an amazing time for me.”
Today, Carroll serves as a scientist and electronics/systems engineer for Booz-Allen-Hamilton, a management and information technology consulting firm, headquartered in McLean, Va. While Carroll cannot say much about the work he does, one can be sure that it involves math.
“Mathematics offers a certain way of thinking,” he explains. “Take as much math as you can. That is the best advice that I have ever been given. You may suffer for a few years, but it will definitely help you out in the long run.
“You may not be able to remember the formulas, but the methodology will remain.”