Brian Hill, Department of Physics & Astronomy.
Each sentence in the biography below describes — or more accurately, only alludes to — a significant step that brought me to where I am, and which would have been impossible without the help of many others.
So many people have put their best into the world, and we all benefit from their inspired work. Steve Jobs captured very well the way we can give to and appreciate one another.
It is better to listen to Steve's homage to humanity than to read my bio even if you had some interest in me specifically.


I entered the University of Washington in Seattle intending to be a AA or a EE, but the first year of physics taught by the late CalTech-trained relativist Philip Peters struck me as so fundamental, correct and beautiful that I switched to physics before it was time to register for the sophomore year. After graduating summa cum laude in 1982, I went to Harvard for grad school in particle theory, worked under the late field theorist Sidney Coleman, and got my PhD in 1988. During my nearly six years at Harvard and three more each at postdocs at Fermilab and UCLA, I authored and co-authored 18 papers, some of which are "well-known," "very well-known," or even "renowned" according to the Spires system.

I decided to jump clear of particle theory as it became steadily more fashionable to write papers on utterly untestable topics. Being proficient in software thanks to my work in lattice gauge theory with Estia Eichten and his collaborators, I was able to land an entry-level job at Steve Jobs' quixotic startup, NeXT Computer.

In 1997 Apple aquired NeXT, and I spent the next couple of years on the AppKit team under the patient tutelage of Chris Kane and Ali Ozer helping turn NeXTstep into the operating system that in its latest rebranding is now known as “macOS.” I took a break after we shipped the first release to developers, and then instead of returning to Cupertino to develop the next release, I threw myself into San Francisco's rough-and-tumble web startup scene.

There I had the privilege of working with many talented and passionate engineers and entrepreneurs, but as much as I was fueled by the creativity, the fast pace, and the ambitious goals and teamwork in the startup world, a few years ago, I realized that my first love remained teaching and learning physics. My last full-time position in software was at Getaround, today the leader in peer-to-peer car sharing, where I wrote the server API that powers the company's mobile app.

I was fortunate to be able to return to academia at Saint Mary's College of California for the Spring semester of 2015 as an Adjunct Professor. Since the Fall semester of 2016, when the late astronomer Ronald Olowin — of Abell-Corwin-Olowin fame — encouraged me to take his keys — literally — and learn my way around the Geissberger Observatory, I have been avidly developing the College's astronomy program. In July 2017, I was promoted to Assistant Professor.

In the Spring Semester of 2018, I am teaching Introductory Astronomy. Thanks to two generous gifts in memory of Prof. Emeritus Ron Olowin, we are well into a complete upgrade of the equipment and experiences in the associated Introductory Astronomy Lab. In Spring Semester, I am also teaching the Department's upper-division course in Astrophysics, relying on the out-of-print but still highly suitable textbook by the late Prof. Emeritus Thomas Swihart of the University of Arizona. In Summer of 2018, I will be doing exoplanet candidate follow-up with the winner of one of the School of Science summer research program awards. In Fall Semester of 2018, I will return to teaching Physics 1.

Return to Brian Hill Home