As an astrophysicist, Lucas Johnson, Ph.D., has always relied on facts and figures, but more so during the outbreak of COVID-19, which during its early days created confusing and sometimes competing messages from a wide range of sources.
Johnson, a 2010 graduate of Wallace State Community College who went on to earn bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in astrophysics at the University of Alabama, began a personal project to collect data related to COVID-19 and provide a “more localized view of the current situation.” He said he felt the finer details for specific counties and schools were being overlooked or misinterpreted.
“I am not giving medical advice,” Johnson pointed out. “I get accurate info to people without telling them what to think. I let them make the decision using science over emotion.”
To do this, Johnson visited the Alabama Department of Public Health website and downloaded their data. Already separated by counties, he began by taking the raw data and breaking it down, looking at metrics that were not widely shared to gauge the progress specific counties were making. He shared his results on his Facebook page, and earned thanks for clearing up information that may have been misstated by others.
Johnson’s background began at Wallace State after he graduated from Speake High School in 2008. He had earned a full scholarship to the University of Alabama during his senior year in high school but chose to come to Wallace State instead. He said the smaller class sizes, the ability to get to know his instructors and staying close to home were factors in that decision.
After two years at Wallace State, he walked away with another scholarship offer from the University of Alabama but not before meeting his future wife, Michelle Spring Johnson, at WSCC.
‘I cannot overstate the value of the community college experience,” Johnson said. “Wallace State is a college that cares and enables its students to succeed in whatever they do. Wallace State did this for me.
“I was ahead of my peers when I transferred to the University of Alabama because of WSCC,” he added.
Now an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of West Alabama, he said he often refers to things he learned while at Wallace State.
“I think back to my time at WSCC when I see a good instructor at UWA or when I am reminded of something that I learned at WSCC; it brings a smile to my face,” he said. “I hope to be able to be a part of the WSCC community again. It would bring me much joy to come back one day.”
This is one in a series of spotlights and events to be featured in April as Wallace State celebrates national Community College Month. Visit www.wscccalumni.org/ccmonth21 for more information.
Registration for Summer Semester also starts this month. Priority registration begins April 13. Summer semester features one 10-week term beginning May 26 and two 5-week terms, with classes offered on campus in Hanceville and Oneonta, online, day, evening and weekends.