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This UT-Dallas Grad Has His Ph.D. -- And He's Only 22

Austin Howard got his Ph.D. in physics from UT-Dallas last Saturday. He's the youngest doctoral graduate in the school's history.

Wichita Falls native Austin Howard recently became the University of Texas at Dallas’ youngest doctoral graduate ever. All of 22 years old, he earned his Ph.D. in physics last Saturday. 

Austin Howard, an only child, got as far as seventh grade in Wichita Falls public schools before jumping to college, Midwestern State University, also in his hometown. As a 12 year-old, he scored a 30 on the ACT.

From an early age, he was interested in science, technology and math. A lifelong PBS viewer, he says his parents – one a teacher, another in real estate – measured time for him in "Bill Nye The Science Guy" episodes. That’s before the boy understood the concept of time and a clock. So a two-hour car trip might be measured as four episodes of Bill Nye.

When Howard was contemplating graduate school (at age 14 or 15), he saw a TV interview with UT-Dallas' Ray Baughman about nanotechnology. He realized the science that he was interested in was happening nearby at UTD. The school and its teachers welcomed him. It took Howard nine years to get his bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D.

Now he says he’s happy working for a software company in Richardson, a job he began after his doctoral dissertation was successfully defended, but before he got his diploma.  

But there’s more he wants to learn, so Howard says another degree might be in his future.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.