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By NSWCDD Corporate Communications
From the time Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) employee Joshua Carter was a young boy, he had enormous potential in the STEM field. The Kansas City, Missouri, native excelled in athletics, theater and STEM-related classes.
Carter’s parents and several teachers picked up on his impressive abilities. “I feel like my parents saw that STEM spark in me when I was really young,” Carter said. “They told me that my preschool teacher had the class doing a bean-counting activity, and the teacher told my parents that I wasn’t using the beans to count. I was doing the math in my head.” Carter explained that his father has a degree in mathematics so, “I must’ve gotten whatever he had.”
Carter loved to be involved in every aspect of school and maintained a very busy schedule, with his activities ranging from athletics like football and track and field, to performing in theater productions. He also completed the International Baccalaureate Career Program.
During his high school career, Carter attended two different schools, both his regular public school as well as Summit Technology Academy in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, to chase after his love of STEM. It was during this time he discovered a passion for photonic optics. “I just really love how light is responsible for almost everything we can do,” Carter explained.
After Carter graduated from high school, he attended the University of Central Florida’s (UCF) College of Optics and Photonics. At the time of his college search, this was one of the top schools in the country for photonics and optics. Carter decided to attend UCF after seeing the world class research being conducted at the school.
Carter was accepted into the Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation Scholarship (SMART) program during his first year of college. The SMART program is a highly competitive scholarship that combines scholarship and workforce development for undergraduate students pursuing careers in STEM-related fields.
While this program had incredible benefits to Carter’s educational and personal growth, it was also highly pressurized. “It shaped me as a man, because immediately after receiving the scholarship, I had the worst performance of my entire academic career,” Carter said. “I honestly coasted through high school. So when my second year of college came around and I got into my major, I had to teach myself how to study. That’s when learning for me went from passive to active.”
“I honestly don’t know what kind of student or person I would’ve been if not for that pressure. It made me who I am today,” he added.
During his college studies, Carter assisted in building a dual wavelength laser, led research on building a Fresnel zone array and assisted in producing vortex beams all through the deployment of holographic phase mask. Carter credits the research completed during his undergraduate to shaping his skill set as an engineer.
Carter graduated in December 2021. Two months later, he began working full-time as a photonics and optics engineer in the Fiber Optics and Interconnects branch of the Strategic and Computing Systems Department at NSWCDD. He credits his success to his co-workers and leadership. “When I started, my team was really good at recognizing my skill set and putting me in a place that I could continue to grow,” Carter said. “They really just supported me.”
While it is only Carter’s first year with NSWCDD, he is already leading the charge for a Naval Innovative Science and Engineering project for distributed fiber optics sensing. “We are developing these tools to be able to establish a better understanding of our own test equipment, machinery and the environments they operate in,” Carter said. “Our implementation of distributed sensing will utilize a fiber optic infrastructure to create a line shaped sensor that will continuously monitor and characterize the equipment and environment within its bounds.”
Carter continues to maintain a busy schedule outside of work performing with a comedic improv theater team in Washington, D.C, and also with the collaboration of a personal mentor, he is developing a mental health application that was accepted into regional U.S. National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps with the University of Maryland that will begin consumer discovery in March.
Carter is being spotlighted as a part of NSWCDD’s celebration of black history month. “With respect to Black History Month, I am very grateful how far we have come,” Carter said. “There is still so much work to be done, but the push is something that I hope to continue.”