Justin holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and a minor in physics. He works in the Energetic Materials Branch of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, a job contracted through University of Dayton Research Institute. In this role, he analyzes and confirms structures of energetic materials, how they are shaped and what conditions they can survive in, among other characteristics.
How did UWF prepare you for this job?
UWF completely prepared me for the chemistry and physics end of it. Dr. Royappa and Dr. Barnes really mentored me and helped me through my academic journey. I originally was thinking about becoming a physicist but that would require more years of school than I wanted to do at the time. They made me realize I could still be a physicist on the chemistry side of it. I told Dr. Royappa how I brew my own beer and he said, “See, you are already a chemist in your kitchen. Now join the other side already!”
When did you know you wanted to be a chemist?
I’ve been in the Air Force for 11 years, now as a reservist. I worked in aircraft maintenance and avionics, so I was surrounded by this environment most of my life. I thought if I’m going to go back to school, I want to see if I can continue to give back to the Air Force in my career.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time at UWF?
At a seminar for CHEM Scholars, Dr. Molek was giving a pep talk, encouraging students to break out of their shells. In the middle of her speech, she mentioned her husband worked at the AFRL as a chemist. I had just applied for my current job there two days earlier so I couldn’t believe she had this connection to someone there. She asked me who I interviewed with and told me she would put in a good word for me. It’s great knowing my UWF family is always going to be here for me and help me stay in the area and thrive in my career.
Why did you choose UWF?
I had contract jobs for many years but the lifestyle required moving or switching jobs often. One of my coworkers told me, ‘If you don’t start a family, you can just be married to the jets.’ I didn’t want to be married to jets; I wanted to be married to my wife and provide for my family. I decided going back to school and using my GI Bill would be a great alternative and my wife agreed. I started looking at schools and saw that UWF was No. 1 in robotics, had a new robotics facility and a great chemistry department.