University of Hawaii at Hilo

Natural Sciences Division

Department of Physics & Astronomy

William K. Montgomerie

B.A. Physics, B.S. Astronomy, Minor in Mathematics (Class of 2011)


Clubs organizations:

University Astrophysics Club (Treasurer); University Canoe Club

Where you are now and what you're doing: 

I am currently a Telescope System Specialist at the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT).

Places you have worked, interned or traveled to for your career: 
Field Operations Crew Supervisor, Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems
Aircraft Laser Spotter for W. M. Keck Observatory and Gemini North Observatory
Stargazing Volunteer, Maunakea Visitor Information Station
ASHRA Infrastructure Maintenance Work, Mauna Loa, HI

Brief Bio:
I grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii, with telescopes on mountain peaks and dark, star-filled night skies.  Inspired by astronomy on Maunakea, I studied Astronomy and Physics at UH Hilo.  Now, I spend over 120 nights a year on the summit of Maunakea where I operate one of the world’s largest telescopes.  Part way through my degree program at UHH my interest in space re-focused itself on the more localized, hands-on engineering side of human Solar System exploration, rather than astronomical research.  I made the decision to double major in Physics at that point, to broaden my area of study.  In the future I hope to obtain a Masters degree in Aerospace or Systems Engineering with focus on the “space" side.  My interests include human habitability on other Solar System bodies, In Situ Resource Utilization efforts, space craft and propulsion, astrodynamics, and continued robotic exploration of yet-unexplored places in the Solar System.  I hope to someday find myself in a position at NASA or a private sector space company like SpaceX.  In the mean time, I spend some of my free time dabbling in things automobile related, including working on my project car, occasional SCCA Autocross racing, keeping a >99.5th percentile score at the nearest indoor go-cart race track, and volunteer co-teaching my local high school’s Auto Shop program.  I also enjoy photography, especially time-lapse.  A montage of some of my night sky footage featuring the JCMT can be found here:  A few of my other hobbies include RC airplane flying, cooking rocket fuel for home-made rocket engines, and Kerbal Space Program (check that out if you haven’t heard of it).  Of course, I leave plenty of time for simply enjoying the island, with sand, sea, and sunshine being integral parts of life.

Advice for prospective/current students of UH Hilo Physics & Astronomy:
If you’re considering UH Hilo for an Astronomy degree, you’re considering living in Hawaii and learning astronomy at the foot of the world’s premiere observational site. What’s to consider? My advice to students is, first and foremost, master the material in your lower division physics courses. No matter what your grades are, if you don’t retain your basic physics familiarity, upper division physics and astronomy courses can end up being much more difficult than they need to be. Secondly, make use of the abundance of scientists in this astronomy community, whether they be University faculty, or observatory staff. Take the extra initiative and get involved in some directed studies or student research/projects. Experience like that is what will separate you from the rest of the applicants with good grades in the eyes of graduate schools and employers. Finally, couple your theoretical course work with application. Get your hands dirty. Take a programming course and do some data processing scripting, or perhaps an electronics course where you get some circuit layout/design and oscilloscope practice. In a specialized world, "well rounded" never hurts.

Alumni - William Montgomerie





  • (Updated December 4, 2015)