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Cushing commencement speaker, a native East Texan, has sights set on NASA

Joshua Rhodes, Ph.D is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in The Webber Energy Group and the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. (Source: KTRE Staff) Joshua Rhodes, Ph.D is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in The Webber Energy Group and the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Rhodes' expertise is solar and wind, but on a rainy day can also talk about water energy. (Source: KTRE Staff) Rhodes' expertise is solar and wind, but on a rainy day can also talk about water energy. (Source: KTRE Staff)
As a graduate student at University of Texas at Austin Rhodes worked with state of the art information panels that mapped energy use in an Austin neighborhood. (source: J. Rhodes & Bloomburg TV) As a graduate student at University of Texas at Austin Rhodes worked with state of the art information panels that mapped energy use in an Austin neighborhood. (source: J. Rhodes & Bloomburg TV)
As a graduate student at University of Texas at Austin Rhodes worked with state of the art information panels that mapped energy use in an Austin neighborhood. (source: J. Rhodes & Bloomburg TV) As a graduate student at University of Texas at Austin Rhodes worked with state of the art information panels that mapped energy use in an Austin neighborhood. (source: J. Rhodes & Bloomburg TV)
NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) -

It's graduation night at Cushing High School. Their commencement speaker is a Nacogdoches High School, Stephen F. Austin State University, Texas A&M University, and University of Texas graduate whose work is to find out how to use energy in smarter ways.

Dr. Joshua Rhodes talked about energy research, the value of growing up in a small town, and failure, and he even drew a connection to the rain.   

Rhodes’ expertise is wind and solar energy. On a rainy day like Friday, the researcher attempted to talk water energy.

From his mother's Nacogdoches home, the Austin resident warmed up a cup of coffee. He said he’s all for convenient energy. 

"I'm like anyone else, when it's hot, I want my air conditioner on,” Rhodes said.

Within reason. Rhodes' job for the Webber Energy Group and the Energy Institute at UT Austin is researching how to use energy smarter.

"This map is showing is what price of residential solar PV does,” Rhodes said. “It make sense to install it in your area."

Rhodes travels the globe sharing his expertise. This year, he was in Italy. Next week, he will be at Harvard.

Still, the 32-year-old was uptight about the commencement speech he was writing for tonight's Cushing High School graduation.

"I'm more nervous about speaking at Cushing than I am speaking at Harvard, to be honest with you,” Rhodes said with a chuckle.

That may be because Rhodes will be honest about himself. Smart? Yes, but Rhodes wasn’t the smartest when he was at Nacogdoches High School.

"I was the last person in the top 10 percent,” Rhodes said.

However, he was bright enough to achieve double bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and economics at SFA.

"Math is at the base of engineering,” Rhodes said. “How they taught me how to think, I think is one thing that has really helped me to be successful.”

Disappointment surfaced when Rhodes pursued graduate school.

"I was the second round draft pick to get into A&M. I thought I was out,” Rhodes said.

He achieved a mathematics master’s degree. Then he was off to UT for another masters in architectural engineering and a PhD in civil engineering. He attributes his perseverance to his late father.

"The best lessons my dad ever taught me this side of heaven was how to work, how to work hard,” Rhodes said.

Which can almost always bring a person out of a storm onto a bright future.

Rhodes has set his next goal pretty high. He's applied to NASA’s Astronaut Class. He said if he makes it to at least the second level of acceptance, he'll be proud and frame the rejection letter.

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