Joshua Colwell, Ph.D



Assistant Director



Dr. Josh Colwell is a Planetary Scientist and Professor of Physics at the University of Central Florida. Since 2011 he has been Associate Chair of the Department of Physics and Interim Assistant Director of the Florida Space Institute. He came to UCF in 2006 following a twenty-one year career at the University of Colorado that started as a graduate student in the Department of Astrophysical, Planetary, and Atmospheric Sciences.

His research interests are in the origin and evolution of the solar system with a particular emphasis on small bodies in the solar system. He is currently a Co-Investigator on the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph of the Cassini mission, a spacecraft in orbit around Saturn since 2004. He studies the structure and dynamics of Saturn’s rings with data from Cassini, following earlier studies of the ring systems of Uranus and Neptune from the Voyager 2 spacecraft.

Dr. Colwell leads the Center for Microgravity Research and Education which conducts fundamental research enabled by microgravity and develops payloads for flight on suborbital rockets, parabolic airplane flights, drop towers, and the International Space Station. He was the Principal Investigator of the Collisions Into Dust Experiment (COLLIDE) that flew on the space shuttle in 1998 and 2001 and has flown payloads multiple times on parabolic airplane flights. These experiments simulate collisions in the early stages of planet formation and between planetary ring particles.

He has completed training as a suborbital payload specialist for the Next-Generation of commercial suborbital rockets. He was selected as one of three Principal Investigators in Blue Origin’s Pathfinder Program to fly the Microgravity Experiment on Dust in Astrophysical Environments on their New Shepard launch vehicle.

His other scientific endeavors include studies of the thermal evolution of comets, the capture of interplanetary dust by planetary magnetospheres, and electrostatic transport of dust on planetary surfaces. He has authored or co-authored more than 70 technical papers, given numerous public talks and lectures, and won three NASA Group Achievement Awards and a UCF Research Incentive Award. He served on the governing committee of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society from 2008-2011 and is also a member of the American Geophysical Union.

Dr. Colwell is a licensed (but retired) sailplane pilot. He was a comet advisor for and actor in the Dreamworks picture “Deep Impact” and acted in several plays in Colorado. His daughter succeeds and exceeds him as an actor in Hollywood.