For a long time, Joshua Santos ’20 listened to everyone else while trying to achieve the goals others had for him. As a consequence, after three years struggling to complete an engineering degree at a larger state university, his effort fell short. His passion for aerospace ran dry.
“I was told for so long ‘this is what you should be doing or would be good at,’ so I was following everybody else’s expectations of me,” Santos said. “Then when I wasn’t getting it, I felt frustrated, and lost my passion and self-confidence.”
Fast-forward five years to spring 2020; Santos just completed a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Florida Polytechnic University and has been accepted into a full-ride Ph.D. program at the University of Florida. He also began a summer internship with the Autonomy Technology Research Center at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, in which he’ll be working with engineers from the Air Force Research Laboratory.
“I needed to find somewhere that was willing to give me a second chance,” said Santos, from Wildwood, Florida.
That place was Florida Poly. Santos started a full-time job at a restaurant after his first attempt at an engineering degree. But once he felt ready to give it another try, he visited the Lakeland campus and found what was he was looking for.
“I liked the smaller campus and smaller classes,” he said. “I saw that it was more focused on academics without many distractions, and it was full of people who have a similar mindset as I do. That was all I was in pursuit of.”
Santos began at Florida Poly as a sophomore in the spring of 2018, and this time it would be different. This time around he would only pursue challenges and opportunities he was interested in. That’s how he discovered his enjoyment of research.
This newfound joy led to a published research paper about exploring carbon nanotubes that he worked on with Assistant Professor Dr. Muhammad Ullah. Santos’ name also appears on a second published paper about autonomous vehicle technology research that he contributed to with Assistant Professor Dr. Suleiman Alsweiss and Florida Poly’s Advanced Mobility Institute.
“I was enjoying the research aspect of things and I knew I wanted to continue, so I started weighing my options,” he said.
Santos said he always felt supported by the faculty at Florida Poly, and he never hesitated to reach out to his professors with questions, concerns, or simply to pick their brains as he figured out the next steps of his academic career.
“I would sometimes go down the hallway stopping by office after office to ask questions to my different professors,” he said. “Having that access was extremely helpful.”
As he prepares for a new chapter, Santos says he doesn’t yet know what direction life will take after he finishes his Ph.D., which will focus in atmospheric sciences. What he does know is he would like to work with some aspect of satellites in the future, maybe for NASA or NOAA – and the path he follows will be one that’s true to himself.
“I’ll learn along the way where I want to be,” Santos said. “That is how this journey has been for me.”
Director of Communications