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 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 was a Co-Investigator on the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph of the Cassini mission, a spacecraft that orbited Saturn from 2004-2017. He studies the structure and dynamics of Saturn’s rings with data from Cassini.
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 is the Principal Investigator of the Collisions Into Dust Experiment (COLLIDE) that flew on the space shuttle in 1998 and 2001, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, and Blue Origin’s New Shepard. He 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.
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 100 technical papers, the book “The Ringed Planet”, given numerous public talks and lectures, and won five NASA Group Achievement Awards, two UCF Research Incentive Awards, two UCF Teaching Incentive Program Awards, Excellence in Undergraduate Education, Mentor of the Year, and the UCF Luminary Award. He was named a UCF Pegasus Professor, the highest honor at UCF for faculty, in 2019.
Dr. Colwell hosts the popular podcast ‘Walkabout the Galaxy’. He was also a comet advisor for, and actor in, the Dreamworks picture “Deep Impact”, acted in several plays, and has been a walker on “The Walking Dead” among other turns as an extra. His daughter succeeds and exceeds him as an actor in Hollywood.