Don Smith
I grew up near Chicago, and I have lived in Germany (86-87 and 92-93). I went to college at The University of Chicago (BA, Physics, 92) and graduate school at MIT (PhD, Physics, 99). I then lived in Ann Arbor for five years, working at the University of Michigan as an NSF postdoctoral Fellow and a lecturer. I began at Guilford College in 2005, was awarded tenure in 2011, and was promoted to Full Professor in 2020. I was awarded the Raymond Binford endowed chair in Spring of 2022.


I am working with students to automate the Guilford College Cline Observatory to function as a professional and teaching laboratory. We have resurfaced the mirrors on the 16-inch telescope. We have written a pipeline to automatically process the images every morning, and we have scripts to automate the observing target list. A student is currently working to update and improve this system. We have published a paper in the Journal of the American Association of Variable Star Observers to explain how the observatory works, in the hopes of submitting more data to their databases in the future.

We are also working on building a spectroscopic instrument. This is mostly on hold, due to the COVID pandemic.

I collaborate with the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute on a project to spectrally classify a massive archival database of hundreds of thousands of stars.

I worked on the ROTSE project, as an NSF postdoctoral Fellow. See here for one of my last papers on ROTSE results. My graduate school project, the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer, involved studying transient outbursts from Black Hole and Neutron Star Binary systems. See here for a paper I helped write about one such system.

More details on my early professional career.


Here is a web page about my machine learning class.

Spring 2022

I am teaching an introductory physics class.

Here is my schedule for the semester.

Here is my most recent CV.

A record of past courses I have taught at Guilford.

I have published eight articles (with two more coming in 2023) in The Physics Teacher journal. One about helping students connect their new knowledge to real-life situations, one about using science fiction to teach physics ideas to non-science majors, one about a trick to help colorblind students understand Astronomical images more easily, one about observing human-made satellites from a ground-based telescope, one about using the card game Mao to teach aspects of scientific thinking, and one about how to use Lucky Imaging to capture cool images of planets with a cell phone. A seventh article about the Physics of Theater Lighting is out in November, 2021. Another article on my experiences using machine learning in an introductory astronomy course is in the same issue.


I have been active in the Religious Society of Friends since I was a teenager, and I currently attend Friendship Friends Meeting in Greensboro. I have also been active as a Quaker academic: in 2005, I contributed a chapter to The Quaker Bible Reader, writing on how a Quaker scientist reads creation stories. I have presented many times at the Summer meetings of the Friends Association for Higher Education, and in 2010 I published an article in the Quaker Higher Education journal. I served on the Executive Board of FAHE and from 2011-2018 served as co-editor of QHE.

In 2014, I co-edited a book of essays on Quaker Perspectives in Higher Education for the Friends Association for Higher Education Press. This book became the first in a series called Quakers in the Disciplines, and I had an article about nuclear power in the sixth volume, Quakers, Creation Care, and Sustainability.


I enjoy theatrical lighting design, and I have designed lights for student shows, community theater, and even a couple of small professional productions:

2023 - Urinetown
2022 - Do You Feel Anger
2020 - A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
2019 - Clue: The Musical, Free To Be You and Me
2017 - The Laramie Project, A Chorus Line
2005 - Bye Bye Birdie, Cabaret
2004 - Rebel Without a Cause, AACT 75th Anniversary Gala
2003 - 2 1/2 Tenors, Pillow Talk, Chicago
2002 - Jeckyll & Hyde
1994 - Think Twice
1993 - Three short plays by A. A. Milne
1992 - Into the Woods
1991 - Lunch Hour, With Discretion, The Little Clay Cart

Here is a digital portfolio I put together to showcase some of my work. In 2019, I team-taught a new course on the Physics of Light Design with my colleague Brian Coleman in the theater department. The link will take you to a set of slides from a March 2020 presentation to the Physics Department at UNCG. Click on the image to advance through.

I also like to travel, cook, bike, garden, watch (and discuss) movies, program computers, and play strategy board games. Lately, I have been getting obsessed with baking loaves of crusty bread. Most importantly, I am delighted when I can spend time with my wife, Kembra, and our crazy adorable dog, Nutmeg.