Academic Autobiography of

Dr. Harold Alden Williams

written and modified over several years now sort of stream of conciseness

Picture of Harold Alden Williams in the Planetarium

Harold Williams is the director of the Montgomery College Planetarium (since 1990) in Takoma Park Maryland.  The job as planetarium coordinator often takes much more than 20 hours/week.  He is also the coordinator of physics labs at Montgomery College at Takoma Park/Silver Spring  for at least 20 hours/week.   For a while he was an associate in the Math and Science Learning Center at Takoma Park (this took 10 hours/week as he spent 10 hours per week in the Math Science Learning Center helping students rooted to a definite schedule).  His association with the Science Learning Center which is now the Math Science Learning Center began in September 1996 and has been very beneficial to his astronomy students both those taught the traditional way and those who take the distance learning course through continuing education.  In fact, if he had  not spent at least most Saturday afternoons in the Math Science Learning Center at Takoma Park/Silver Spring he could not offer AS101 as a distance learning telecourse through continuing education with educational integrity.  As former associate of the Math Science Learning Center he helped astronomy, chemistry, mathematics, and physics students primarily.  He also supervised Math Science Learning Center work study students who assist other students at the center. As of January 4, 1999 he spends 20 hours/week in the planetarium and 20 hours/week as physics labs coordinator. He does these things for Montgomery College as a full time exempt staff member for what they call 10 months a year though it is actually 9 months, (he starts work the last week in August and stops the weekend before the next to last week in May).  He always at least teaches Introductory Astronomy , AS101, (in the summer/Fall of 2000 this was an Internet/cable television course using Blackboard.com software and hosting; in the winter/Spring 2001 this course is a traditional Tuesday and Thursday 7-9:40pm class, but using an Eduprise server using Montgomery Colleges distance learning URL   as an adjunct professor. He is looking forward to converting and moving all of this over to WebCT so he can offer Introductory Astronomy in the fall of 2001 as an Internet course again. In the somewhat remote past  he has also taught for Montgomery College as an adjunct the following courses Introductory Physical Geology, GL101, and  General Physics I and II (non engineering) PH203, PH204, or a telecourse called Oceanus, BI106, and a number of years ago he taught mathematics, (prealgebra) MA014, (elementary algebra) MA015, (survey of college mathematics) MA112, (intermediate algebra and trigonometry) MA114-all of the mathematics course numbers have changed such that they are now MA090, MA091, MA110, MA100 and MA102-, at Montgomery College . When he  teaches as an adjunct faculty member at Montgomery College he is compensated additionally from his staff job.  Once a year (since 1992) he teaches an Earth Science course, SOSC107, at Southeastern University in the District of Columbia as an adjunct professor. In 1999 he taught this course twice. He did not teach any course at Southeastern University in 2000 and most likely will not be teaching there again. He was an adjunct professor at Bowie State University fall 1998 for PHSC111.   Fortunately for him this was done in Montgomery County at the Connecticut Park Adult Education Center through Continuing Education and Extended Studies for Bowie State University.  Bowie State had him do this again in fall 1999 (now taught in the planetarium at Montgomery College), but the class was two small to sustain a regular section, so he is did it as an  independent study, PHSC111.  Starting in February 4, 2000 he taught PHSC111 for Bowie State University again, also in the planetarium at Montgomery College (Bowie State University and Montgomery College have some sort of understanding).  Starting February 2, 20001 he is teaching again for Bowie State University PHSC111, but this time he also is using the free Blackboard.com sight (Find a course GAL102 then hit GO) to support students work, too.  He taught an eight week course on Friday evening for Bowie State University at the Universities of Maryland Shady Grove Center PHSC111 and he is using Bowie's Blackboard sight to enhance this traditional lecture, recitation, lab course.   Now he is teaching PHSC111 for Bowie State University again this summer/Fall in 2003.  This is an on-line College of the Air course.  To see the syllabus click here.  His versatility in teaching makes him a valuable faculty member for the chairman or dean since he can teach so many different courses. He has consistently been rated highly by students on evaluations. In fact, he was recently honored by being selected to be included in the fifth edition of Who's Who Among America's Teacher, 1998 along with three other colleague who teach here at Montgomery College at Takoma Park/Silver Spring.  He thanks a student who must have nominated him for this honor--he doesn't own a copy of the book Who's Who Among America's Teacher, 1998.  He gives maddeningly hard and long tests and his final exams are always comprehensive. His course syllabi runs for many pages--students know exactly what is expected of them from the first day of class-though some don't believe it until after the first test.

He was born in Gainesville, Florida and grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. He studied at Florida State University in Tallahassee, where he received a Bachelors of Science with a double major in physics and mathematics.  He studied at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he received a Masters of Science and became depressed in what he now calls "the quantum gravity madness years," while attempting to formulate a renormalizable quantum field theory consistent with Einstein's general theory of relativity. No one else has done this yet either.  He suspects now that this is not possible as long as space and time are modeled by using real numbers and thinks that space and time will have to be modeled as discrete numbers which are indivisible, quantitized at the Plank length and Plank time.  He now realizes that others have though of a similar scheme, but no one has pulled this off yet either.  While at Stony Brook he was responsible for creating a lab bible and organizing all of the new labs in a new two course sequence of physics courses for premed and pre dentistry majors.  He also ordered all of the equipment for this biophysics course.  He also assembled all of this new equipment and got it to work and took test data on all of the equipment before it was used to instruct physics students.  He also supervised the other graduate students who taught this multi-section lab course, making sure that they knew how to conduct the experiments before they had students who had to do the same experiments.  He thinks physics lab instructors should take data and run though every experiment themselves before they teach the lab to students.  While he was successful as a physics teacher at Stony Brook he was not successful in his attempt to formulate a renormalizable quantum field theory of gravity.  He then regrouped and studied at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge under the supervision of Dr. Joel Tohline , where he received a doctorate of philosophy while studying star formation by using 3-D explicit Eulerian hydrodynamics in the physics and astronomy department. His current 3-D hydrocode, which is second-order in time as well as space, he immodestly calls it Halcyon, after the ancient legend, of a bird, believed to have been the kingfisher, who supposedly has a calming influence on the sea at the time of the winter solstice. While at LSU Harold  was at first made astronomy lab teacher and learned how to use a telescope and how to operate a planetarium.  He also got to do a little observational astronomy with Dr. Paul Lee with various occultations.  He has recently started doing occultations with students at Montgomery College using a low light security camera attached to a VHS video recorder player television.  He also built and designed his first astrolabe during his astronomy laboratory teaching years.  Latter before he graduated he was moved to teaching the physics majors and chemical engineers freshman lab courses, after the person who had been doing this graduated.  He was again successful as a physics laboratory teacher.  After LSU, Dr. Williams worked for two years as a post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, DTM, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, CIW , where he continued his star formation studies.

After DTM, he became planetarium director and developed grade-specific programs for local school field trips and a vigorous program of monthly public astronomy lecture/planetarium performances. Several thousand people visit the planetarium every year. He has also become a musical impresario with monthly music/laser light shows, though he does not perform the music, being musically disadvantaged, having spent three years as a youth playing the piano-only getting through the second grade piano book.  Twice music/laser light shows have been broadcast live over the internet.  To see and hear them now, since they are after all files click on the 11-28-1998 show, the second one and the slightly better one.  It runs for 1 hours 31 minutes and 48.8 seconds so plan to spend a while watching it with the Realaudio and Video G2 player, if you want to see it all.  The real show was of course better, but we are just learning how do do this right.  I think you can see the educational application of this if you use your imagination only a little.  For use in education you might ask how large is the 1 hour 31 minutes and 48.8 seconds video and audio as an file that I have to store on the file server?  The answer is 154.8Megabytes!  The second question the IT, Information Technology,  person might ask is what bandwidth does it take per broadcast?  The answer here seems to be around 28.1kiobaud/viewer!  Now if you know how many classes you are going to have per semester and how many students per class any administrator with a calculator can figure out whether this can be covered by tuition. Of course, you have to add in things like what are you paying the instructor to do this and little things like that.  Seems like hands on applied science education to me!  You know people with servers worry about real things like this. The second show whose music is fine, but whose video is not as good, as we were just learning how to take video images in the some times darkened planetarium is here.  It was broadcast on 10-24-1998 and last for 1 hour 36 minutes and 32.9 seconds and is 90.7megabytes and to stream it requires 15.65kilobaud/viewer.

Representing Montgomery College, in what he calls his traveling talks done outside the planetarium he generally speaks to another thousand people throughout the year.

During the summer he is on soft money or teaches physics as an adjunct physics professor and makes a little more that his usual staff scale just teaching physics.  A few summers ago (1996), when he did not run any teacher workshops on soft money,  he taught PH203 and PH204 lab and recitation.  That was the summer he started using the CBL equipment  in a major way.  The CBL, Calculator Based Laboratory, is a data logger.  You can think of it as a stop watch, that can measure almost anything taking up to 10,000 measurement a second.  It has three channels for probes , a special ultra-sonic motion detector port, and digital in and out and a TI-Calculator link port.  Generally the TI-Calculator link port is used to program, tell the CBL unit what to do, and which channel to measure, when and how to ship the data back to the graphing TI calculator .  It is a bit faster at reading any type of meter than you or me.  To complete the analysis of the data, physics experiment, but it could be a chemistry or biology experimental sensor, the graphing calculator is then used to produce the graph.  The graph is then printed via the TI-Graph Link on a  computer attached to a printer; or the TI-Graph Link is used to send the data to Vernier software's Graphic Analysis for Windows program where even more extensive curve fitting can  be done than what is easily possible with the TI graphing calculator. A CBL, a TI calculator, and disciple relevant measurement probes are very similar in function, capacity, and portability to an early version of a Star Trek tri-corder, and we are not in the 23 century. Any educator who can not see this after he has played a bit with this equipment is senile.  Any educator who has actually used this equipment with a real class and graded their lab reports will be further convinced of the utility of this equipment for many laboratory experiment except the most static. If nothing moves and you are only measuring weight or force, a pan balance is cheaper and more direct. You  still need pan balances or some way of weighing or massing things.  This equipment shines most when used to measure variability in time or space of any dynamic variable: distance, velocity, acceleration, pressure, temperature, light level, voltage, current, B-field, spectrophotometer, ionic concentrations, and pH to name a few. Now we could use the CBL2,  except  instead, we use the Lab Pro.  

In summer July 5 through July 23, 1999 he directed Astronomy Across the Curriculum: A Workshop for Teachers, A Cooperative Venture Between Montgomery College at Takoma Park and the University of Maryland at College Park, funded by the Dwight D. Eisenhower Mathematics and Science Education Act administered by the Maryland Higher Education Commission, MHEC, grant number 99-20-217. This is the third year in a row he has run teacher workshops in astronomy in Maryland. He has run a total of four teacher workshops in Maryland so far.  He would like to run more teacher workshops so that science could be better understood and appreciated by children in K-12 classes. He loves summer workshops, because even though they are a lot of work; they are slightly less works than teaching 12 ESH (ESH=Equivalent Semester Hours) in two 5 week sessions in the summer.  It pays better by some, and it is a little more fun, too.  What more can you ask than slightly less work, at better pay, while having more fun!  He also ran a teacher workshop in the District of Columbia like he has done for Maryland teachers in the summer of 1998. This workshop is funded by the Dwight D. Eisenhower Mathematics and Science Education Act administered by the Office of Post-Secondary Education in the Department of Human Services of the District of Columbia government.  DC seems to have trouble getting out request for proposals.  This year, 2000, the MHEC seems to have the same problem the DC Human Services department, which is real sad.  The congress of the United States has changed the rules for Eisenhower money so even the fairly smart people at MHEC are unsure of what they can and can't do with the money under the law.  Everybody is campaigning this year talking about the importance of education and funding better schools and improving standards, but the reality is less is being done and funded this year for teacher education in the summer in science.  A program that has worked since the Eisenhower administration seems to have become broken.  Everybody in science talks about education, but they don't seem to do much about it.  We do a very good job of educating the elite--actually we don't really do a good job there either--, but the clever are smart enough so that they can compensate when educated poorly.  The less clever can't figure it out on their own and the slightly stupid or lazy have not got a chance of understanding the universe.

He and Poul Pedersen wrote an Internet proposal in June 1993 which was funded by NSF so that Montgomery College's campuses could be connected to the Internet.  

I realize that administrators at  Montgomery College have noticed that he has gotten $242,189 in external grants in the last few years.   He knows that administrators at Southeastern University have noticed that he brought in $63,003 in one grant to them summer 1998.  He is working with people in the Math Science Learning Center and the Biology department to help bring in more grants to Montgomery College. He is willing to work with anybody as long as they will work with him. He is currently trying to interest some art faculty in a joint science and art visualization project at Montgomery College.  He has temporarily given up on Southeastern University since they seem to not have a grants director anymore.  College politics make national politics look tame.  College politics is politics without much democracy, but lots of sometimes strong leadership.  The problem is even a very good leaders who are smart or clever can't possibly know as much as several handfuls of even mediocre people who communicate.  Of course, its hard to get several handfuls of mediocre people to communicate. Maybe the web and what ever it is becoming will help with this?  Many hands make for light work. Of course, the same problem happens with corporation, too.    A strong leader makes for a weak people. Who said the last two purple things?  He thinks they were said by Mother Ann Lee and Emile Zapato.  Can you prove that he was right or wrong?  {My daughter thinks that I should replace he with I everywhere in this narrative.  Perhaps she is right. Should autobiographies be written in first or third person.}

Scientifically his current hope is to understand how angular momentum is redistributed during star formation. Finally, if he lives long enough, he would like to understand how 10 ^8 times too much angular momentum is generated in the collapsing interstellar clouds which form stars in the first place. Of course, what thinking creature wouldn't want to understand this!  To see some of the progress made in this field and to see the future of book publishing and less face it human thought, these two things are often the same thing, at least they have been closely related though not the same, since Gutenberg, see The Structure, Stability, and Dynamics of Self-Gravitating Systems by Joel Tohline. Way to go Joel!  Some day I may even have read all of this and done all of the simulations contained within.  Bo Reipurth's star formation newsletter .

He has a deep and abiding interest in astrolabes and is the owner of this domain astrolabes.org.  All of the pages with the exception of an occasional editorial comment off of this domain are written by a collaborator, James E. Morrison of Janus. Janus is a small company that make inexpensive astrolabes for astronomy classes and hobbyist.  Dr. Williams has no financial stake or connection with Janus other than being a customer.  The best information on the web about astrolabes is found at this sight.  It is extensively sighted by others that have an interest in the astrolabe, which not only includes astronomy educators, but mediaeval history students and colleges.

His planetarium experience has taught him how to be a shameless promoter. His self depreciating sense of humor and enthusiasm save him from being a total bore.

He is currently web maintainer for the National Capital Astronomers, NCA, founded in 1937 which is a non-profit, public service corporation for advancement of the astronomical sciences and is the astronomy affiliate of the Washington Academy of Sciences. He was president of NCA for two years (August 1996 through August 1998) and was vice president (program chairman) for the two years before that (August 1994 through August 1996 ).  On August 15, 1998 he became a regular member.  He is the registered owner of the domain capitalastronomers.org and is one of the web masters for NCA, a shared responsibility (the founding web person).  On June 4, 2005 he was elected president again, which is the easier of the two jobs.  It is always easier to lead than to do, if you can draw on your experience of doing.  Fortunately he is now reverted to his best position as web maintainer and ordinary member of NCA with some responsibility for the officer nominating committee. That way he can avoid being nominated as an officer again.  He is also a member of the The Astronoical Society of Greenbelt, explore the universe by starting locally, they have the darkest sky site in the Washington DC Metro Area, Northway Observatory.

HESSI, the High Energy Spectroscopic Imager, got funded in November 1997.  What has this got to do with him, he is not a solar high energy physicist--at least he haven't been up to now.  Carol Crannell of the GSFC, Goddard Space Flight Center, (the PI on HEIDI, High Energy Imaging Device,  and a co-PI on HESSI) invited him to be a HESSI education partner.  Naturally he said yes and got his institution, Montgomery College, to write a letter of support.  Who doesn't want to be a rocket scientist?  Anyway, he helped Carol involve the Maryland Science Center and their planetarium and the three planetariums in the Harford County Public Schools.  We have had some meeting and have started working together.  It is a lot of fun and he has involved his student workers in this endeavor: Iya Massah, Hope Okpeku, Gilbert Prevost, Yinka Adeyemi, and Maria Arez.  Gilbert Prevost has put up on the web an Introductory Astronomy, AS101, level or version of HESSI.  Much more to come no doubt. We have meet once with Isabel Hawkins, the leader of the California HESSI education partners, and the director of the Center for Science Education,  CSE, programs for the UC Berkeley Center for Extreme Ultraviolet Astrophysics.  The California HESSI education partners are the Lawrence Hall of Science and the San Francisco Exploratorium.  Right now this is satisfying his need to learn more science and discover how the universe works.  He has a lot to learn about the sun, but it seems to him so does every one else, too.

He has a number of interesting student workers at Montgomery College: Hope Okpeku, Yinka Adeyemi Aberra Gebereyes, and Kodjovi Kpotchie.  He also has a planetarium volunteer Barbara Stevens who help him. He is proud of all of these people.

This past academic year September 1998 through May 1999 he has been advisor to the Science Club.  He has had a lot of fun with the science club.  We have had built a Very Low Frequency Radio, gone on several field trips:  Sugar Loaf Mountain on October 18, 1998, Great Falls on November 22, 1998, Luray Caverns on February 28, 1999, the Air an Space Museum and the Natural History Museum on March 21, 1999, Walter Reed Medical National Medical Museum April 11, 1999, and on April 23, 1999 William Webster of the NASA/GSFC gave a talk on "Planetary Ice, Lunar Ice, Lunar Helium 3, and the Real Opening of the Final Frontier."  For pictures on these activities of the Science Club go here.  About every other year the science club is very active like it has been this year.  He hopes that next years club is as good.  He suspects that it will be as good, since we will still have Maria Arez as a student here.  It takes at least one student leader to make a student centered club work.

He was the vice president of Montgomery College Staff Union, AFSCME local 2380, again (having been president from November 1999 until March 2003)  in March of 2007. and union web master, see local 2380 web page for information on the union. He was on the organizing committee for AFSCME on campus though he joined late as a member of the organizing committee. Since that time;  he has served as a watcher during the representation election, was a temporary executive board member, then an elected executive board member, an elected member of the original contract negotiating committee, and while he was out of the country attending a total solar eclipse in Curacao he was nominated to be vice-president.  Wanting to stay involved, when he got back in the country so he had no choice, but to run for vice-president instead of executive board member.  He became president when Lisa Carvallo, our former president, took a management position with the college, which is non-bargaining, and the executive board elected him to this position.  In February 2000, I was nominated  for union president and no one ran against him.  In February 2001, I was nominated for union president and no one seems to want to run against me.  Fortunately in March 2003 Liz Brandenberg agreed to run for president.  I have also been on every negotiating committee from the original contract and every reopener and salary negotiations since then.   He was involved in new contract negotiations starting September 1, 2003 for a new contract which will take effect on July 1, 2004 when the current 6 year contract expires.  On July 1, 2010 we have a new contract that takes effect with binding arbitration on everything, the golden standard in union management cooperation binding both! Again he was involved in this contract negotions with many others in interest based negotiations with the Federal Mediation &  Consilation Service, FMCS, this time.  In union there is strength.  Now thank heavens he is just on the executive board and a steward at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus.  

Besides his recent union activity to promote justice, Harold Williams has been involved in Christianity since he was young.  He is currently an inactive deacon in the First Baptist Church of Silver Spring and team teaches an adult Sunday School class.   "He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8, RSV.  The instrumental part to "Spirit in the Sky " by Norman Greenbaum is here.  The original words need to be changed a little to be appropriate at my funeral; the line "Never been a sinner I never sinned" is obviously delusional for me or any other person I have known and should be changed with appropriate apology to Norman Greenbaum to something like "Always been a sinner so there's Grace."  The in the Sky part should also be taken metaphorically, that is not God's only location.

Harold Alden Williams' resume this, too may be out of date (this resume is very long listing too much for most purposes).  If you want to offer me a job based upon this I will up date it with your job in mind, if your job sounds interesting to me.  I am currently very happy at Montgomery College (it is truly a great place to work), but I support myself on soft money in the summer and I do work as an adjunct professor and consulting educator and scientist (what ever the latter two things mean), as the above reveals. If you want to pay me to do something ask and I will consider it.  I am currently not permitted to do anything more without saying no to two things that I am currently doing (my wife, Barbara Sue Whitehurst Williams',  rule and the chair of physical sciences, Sue Thornton, one of my Montgomery College bosses; agrees with this so I will not overwork myself), but some of the things that I am doing will expire, terminate in a few months.  Another resume this one is only 2 pages and is in Microsoft Word and was used with an NSF proposal in October of 2002 in which I was just one of the partners.

Weather where Harold Alden Williams most likely is (Takoma Park/Silver Spring, 20912, MD) according to CNN or according to Wunderground!
NOVAC weather page, Weather Forcast for Astronomy from Canada.

Cloud Cover in Maryland, DC, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, and all the Clear Sky Clocks! - Is it worth going observing in the optical with a small portable telescope for pleasure, instruction, or occultation science?

Local Time where Harold Williams most likely is!

Montgomery College's Planetarium home page.
web page by Dr. Harold Alden Williams last modified Sunday, 12:29AM  July 4, 2010 some part of this document is always somewhat out of date, I can not keep up with myself.