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High-Energy Work
Paul Shawcross

Paul Shawcross: An Explosive Career

Posted by Battelle Insider on Apr 20, 2017

How many times have you daydreamed during a particularly difficult day at work about blowing up something or smashing something to pieces? (There’s a reason why the scene in Office Space where they beat the fax machine to bits is so cathartic.)

Well, Battelle’s Paul Shawcross gets to live that dream every day. He works at the Battelle High Energy Research Laboratory Area (HERLA) in Central Ohio and gets to spend his days blowing things up. 


Paul is a Principal Research Scientist and has been with Battelle for nearly 12 years. His work is centered around thermodynamics and combustion. His team works with a variety of energetic compounds and tries to provide innovate solutions through design improvements, prototype development and testing, system characterization efforts, safety studies and manufacturing support. He sometimes works with materials that can release a significant amount of energy (the HERLA can accommodate up to 50 pounds of explosives) in an incredibly short amount of time (microseconds or less). This requires capturing pressure and temperature data within these extremes – safely and with test and instrumentation fixtures that are suited for such a dynamic environment.

Some of Paul’s specific project work includes an effort with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop airbag testing procedures, as well as a project where he investigated the protection afforded by protective clothing against fireballs generated from IED blasts.

“Sometimes it feels like I’m working in an AC/DC music video,” he said.

Paul has a master’s and bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from The Ohio State University and said a key component to his job is planning.

“Plan as much as possible. The tests we do are too destructive to easily set everything back up and re-test,” he said. 

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