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Vernon Morris

Atmospheric scientist Vernon R. Morris Vernon was born on [month day, year?] in [city, state?]. Morris graduated from Morehouse College in 1985 with his B.A. degree in chemistry and mathematics. Following graduation, he enrolled at Georgia Institute of Technology. Morris received the Regent’s Scholarship and the NASA Graduate Student Research Fellowship to pursue his theoretical and experimental studies of inorganic peroxides in the Earth’s stratosphere. After graduating with his Ph.D. degree in earth and atmospheric sciences from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1991, Morris was awarded a Ford Foundation Fellowship at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship where he worked on the chemical dynamics of free radical systems important in comets and the interstellar medium.

Morris served as a part-time instructor at Spelman College while striding for his Ph.D. degree. Later, he joined Howard University’s Chemistry Department as an assistant professor. In 1996, he became the deputy director of the Howard University Center for the Study of Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Atmospheres (CSTEA). From 2001 to 2004, Morris served as the director of the Howard University Graduate Program in Atmospheric Sciences (HUPAS) and was instrumental in developing atmospheric sciences as a major focus of the university’s research portfolio. Morris was then named director of the Howard University Component of the NASA Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology Center. Morris also served as director of the NOAA Center in Atmospheric Sciences (NCAS) as well as the co-director of the Laboratory for Molecular Computations and Bioinformatics at the National Institutes of Health Research Center for Minority Institutions. He was a visiting scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Branch and served briefly as chair of the chemistry department at Howard University.

Morris is a member of several scientific boards and professional organizations. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (BASC) and the Advisory Board of the Benjamin Banneker Institute for Science and Technology. Morris is also a member of the American Meteorological Society, the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, the American Geophysical Union, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Advanced Study Institute.

His combined concentration on academic research and focus on atmospheric sciences has garnered for him recognition from professional and academic associations. Morris is a recipient of the University Merit Award, the Howard University Faculty Merit Award and Howard University’s Most Productive Faculty Researcher in Natural Sciences award. Morris received the prestigious NSF Career Award from the Geosciences Directorate for his research on the photochemistry of carbonaceous aerosols.

Vernon R. Morris was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 29, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.083

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/29/2013

Last Name

Morris

Maker Category
Middle Name

R.

Schools

Morehouse College

Georgia Institute of Technology

NATO Advanced Study Institute

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Vernon

Birth City, State, Country

San Antonio

HM ID

MOR13

Favorite Season

None

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

1/23/1963

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Atmospheric scientist Vernon Morris (1963 - ) is the director of the Howard University Component of the NASA Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology Center, director of the NOAA Center in Atmospheric Sciences, and co-director of the Laboratory for Molecular Computations and Bioinformatics at the National Institutes of Health Research Center for Minority Institutions.

Employment

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

University of California

Howard University

Center for the Study Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Atmospheres

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center

NOAA Center in Atmospheric Sciences

National Institute of Health (NIH) Research Center for Minority Institutions

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Vernon Morris' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Vernon Morris lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Vernon Morris describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Vernon Morris talks about his maternal great-grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Vernon Morris talks about his maternal grandmother, and his mother's growing up in Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Vernon Morris describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Vernon Morris talks about his father's growing up in Arkansas City, Kansas, and his career in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Vernon Morris talks about how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Vernon Morris talks about his likeness to his father, and lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Vernon Morris talks about his mother's personality and her career as an educator

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Vernon Morris describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Vernon Morris talks about his family's frequent relocations while his father was enlisted in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Vernon Morris describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up - part one

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Vernon Morris describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up - part two

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Vernon Morris talks about going to school in Japan

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Vernon Morris talks about continuing his schooling in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Vernon Morris talks about attending school in Spokane, Washington, and going to Expo 74, The Spokane World's Fair

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Vernon Morris talks about his interest in the outdoors, and his middle school science project

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Vernon Morris talks about his interest in TV shows and books about exploration

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Vernon Morris talks about his experience in the Cub Scouts and his interest in tinkering with gadgets

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Vernon Morris talks about his experience in school in Washington State

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Vernon Morris talks about the African American community in Spokane, Washington

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Vernon Morris talks his interest in reading, stamp collecting, music, and in electronics and programming

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Vernon Morris talks about his interest in space exploration and airplanes

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Vernon Morris talks about his involvement in sports in high school and being a member of the choir at Bethel AME Church in Spokane, Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Vernon Morris talks about his academics and social life in high school in Spokane, Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Vernon Morris talks about his father and a the network of African American college students who influenced him to go to college - part one

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Vernon Morris talks about his father and a the network of African American college students who influenced him to go to college - part two

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Vernon Morris talks about his academics in high school and graduating from high school in 1981

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Vernon Morris talks about taking the bus from Spokane, Washington to Atlanta, Georgia to attend Morehouse College

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Vernon Morris describes his first encounter with chemistry professor, Henry McBay, and his experience in his classroom

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Vernon Morris talks about his professors at Morehouse College and his formative education there - part one

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Vernon Morris talks about his professors at Morehouse College and his formative education there - part two

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Vernon Morris describes his social and extracurricular activities at Morehouse College

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Vernon Morris describes his involvement with the Frederick Douglass Tutorial Institute while at Morehouse College

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Vernon Morris talks about his experience in Henry McBay's chemistry classes at Morehouse College

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Vernon Morris talks about his experience as a student in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Vernon Morris describes his experience as an undergraduate researcher with HistoryMaker, John Hall, Jr., at Morehouse College

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Vernon Morris describes his undergraduate work on matrix isolation of short-lived chemical intermediates that influence atmospheric chemistry

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Vernon Morris talks about the technological advancements in computers and lasers in the 1980s

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Vernon Morris describes his decision to pursue his doctoral studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Vernon Morris describes his experience as a doctoral student at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Vernon Morris describes his Ph.D. dissertation on the investigation of short-lived organic compounds of stratospheric significance

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Vernon Morris describes the chemical destruction of the ozone layer, and the implications of the depletion of the ozone layer

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Vernon Morris shares his perspectives on global warming and its implications

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Vernon Morris reflects upon being the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in geophysical sciences at Georgia Tech

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Vernon Morris describes his note-taking strategies as a graduate student at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Vernon Morris talks about those that influenced his scientific career

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Vernon Morris talks about graduating from Georgia Tech, and his postdoctoral experience at the NATO Advanced Study Institute in Italy

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Vernon Morris describes his experience as a postdoctoral researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Vernon Morris describes his experience as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Davis

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Vernon Morris talks about joining the faculty at Howard University in 1994

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Vernon Morris talks about the establishment of the Howard University Program in Atmospheric Sciences (HUPAS)

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Vernon Morris talks about his early days as a faculty member at Howard University's department of chemistry

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Vernon Morris talks about receiving the National Science Foundation (NSF) Career Award in 1997

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Vernon Morris talks about his experience with the NASA Center for the Study of Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Atmospheres and HUPAS

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Vernon Morris talks about his experience at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Vernon Morris talks about competing for a NOAA Center for Atmospheric Sciences position at Howard University

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Vernon Morris describes his work with the AEROSE (Aerosol and Oceanographic Science Expeditions) project - part one

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Vernon Morris describes his work with the AEROSE (Aerosol and Oceanographic Science Expeditions) project - part two

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Vernon Morris describes the findings from the AEROSE project, and using the data to study the throughput of biological mass between continents

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Vernon Morris talks about student participation on the AEROSE cruises, and the land-based measurement sites in Africa

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Vernon Morris talks about the parallels between the AEROSE expeditions and historic passages along the same route

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Vernon Morris talks about the NOAA Center in Atmospheric Sciences (NCAS) Weather Camp

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Vernon Morris reflects upon improving the NOAA Center for Atmospheric Sciences' visibility on Howard University's campus

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Vernon Morris talks about collaborating with the Department of African Studies at Howard University on NCAS's work in Africa

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Vernon Morris talks about his career goals for the future

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Vernon Morris discusses the Howard University NOAA Center for Atmospheric Sciences' work in Africa

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Vernon Morris reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Vernon Morris describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community today

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Vernon Morris talks about his family

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Vernon Morris talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$6

DAStory

1$7

DATitle
Vernon Morris talks about his professors at Morehouse College and his formative education there - part one
Vernon Morris talks about his experience with the NASA Center for the Study of Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Atmospheres and HUPAS
Transcript
So we were just talking about Henry McBay [chemist and teacher at Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia] and his--$$Yeah.$$--the legend of Henry McBay--$$Yeah.$$--amongst all the black chemists.$$Yeah, I think he's definitely influenced a generation of African American chemists, certainly through Morehouse, but also through Clark Atlanta [University, Atlanta, Georgia]. And I wouldn't have made it in chemistry and math had it hadn't been for him. I would have been on a completely different track, there's no doubt. I used to go to him, I went to him throughout the four years I was there. I never did research with him. I actually did research with John Hall, Jr. [chemist; also a HistoryMaker], and really it was those two guys who--you know, that department changed my course significantly.$$Now, what made Henry McBay special, you know? You talk about his ability to deliver all this information--$$Oh yeah.$$--but what actually made him special?$$You can tell he loved what he was doing. I mean there's the, the joy that he had in figuring out a chemistry problem, or relaying knowledge was just, it was tangible. And for me, not having particularly influential teachers--or teachers who could hold my attention, to sit in a lecture--and you know, my mouth is open the whole time. And I'm seeing things that I never saw in the same way before. And then, you could talk to him. He was the easiest person, ever, to talk to. I mean, and talk about anything, you know, from girls to, you know, mathematical organic chemistry. And you know, that's, you know, you need a person like that, I think at an age where you can be influenced. You're looking for guidance, you know, which way should I go? And I was like, you know, that's a guy I'd like to, you know--he's relaxed, he's comfortable, he's doing what he loves. And that's a job I'd like to do. And I saw a similar thing in John Hall. I mean, he really did the things, he appeared to be doing things the way he wanted to do them, on his terms. He had a joint appointment between Morehouse and Georgia Tech [Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia] at the time, you know. Dr. McBay was known all over the world. And he said, okay, I can master this area. And I love math, and chemistry is okay, I can deal with chemistry. And the physics department there--Carlisle Moore was another big influence of mine, an extremely difficult professor. Very few people got As. Henry Gore was my math professor. So I was really fortunate to go to Morehouse at that time, when you really had these sort of giants of education in physical sciences and mathematics. Just some outstanding people, and outstanding teachers as well. They really knew the material, but they really knew how to convey the material and challenge you. There was no, no slacking off in those classes.$$Now, was Benjamin Mays [minister, educator, scholar, social activist; president of Morehouse College from 1940 to 1967; mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King] president at that time?$$Now, Bennie Mays was not. He had retired, maybe a year or two before I left, because I went to his memorial service while I was Morehouse. Gloster, Hugh Gloster, was the president.$$Okay.$$And then Gloster left, and it was, I forgot his name. It'll come to me. But it was Hugh Gloster, it wasn't--$$Was it a Luther White, not Luther White--$$No, it was, he was a businessman, a business background.$$Well, don't worry about it. We'll just--$$Yeah, it'll come to me.$$Okay.$$But yeah, I believe I was fortunate. You know, J.K. Haynes [biologist; also a HistoryMaker], J.K. is still there. I go back and visit. You know, Morehouse replaced my high school, in terms of a place that I would go back to and say, that's my formative development. You know, Dr. Gore left, Henry Gore left. But I think Dr. Moore just retired, but I go back and visit Dr. Moore, who was the chairman. I majored in chemistry and math, minored in physics. So once I got started there, you know, it was a great set of guys I was studying with, and just fantastic and motivating teachers.$$Okay.$$So, if I could have triple majored in four years, I'd have done that. You know, I loved the courses I was taking.$Okay, so how was your time spent basically, proportionately, between teaching and doing research and administration [at Howard University, Washington, District of Columbia]?$$It was probably equally split. Administration wise, I had responsibilities in the NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] Center [Center for the Study of Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Atmospheres] as deputy director. And so, I was responsible for the day to day work--the reporting, you know, development of strategic mission and goals and business spokesman for the center. And I also ran some of the outreach programs, writing proposals to help supplement some of our other programs. And early on, teaching. The teaching load was probably more than most people, because I had to teach both in chemistry--in order to earn tenure in that department--but I also had to teach in atmospheric sciences so that we could spin up that program. And then research, you just have to do. You have to, you gotta publish papers to stay solvent. And so it was, it was really taxing. But the early, you know, the first probably five or six years was a lot of nose to the grindstone. But, you know, looks like it's paid off.$$Okay, alright. Alright. So, the program, the graduate program actually starts up in '98 [1998]?$$Right, '98 [1998], it got approved by the Board of Trustees.$$Okay.$$So, that was four years which, again, looking back, it's kind of record time. It's the only inter-disciplinary degree granting program here at the university. And we put together and had it approved within the four years, which is actually pretty remarkable.$$Now, how big was your staff, I mean in terms of your, I mean the faculty of the department?$$At that time?$$Yeah.$$We probably had in '94 [1994], I think, I mean '98 [1998], was we probably had three people--(simultaneous)$$(simultaneous)$$--three or four people. It's Sonya [Smith], Everette [Joseph], Greg [Jenkins, also a HistoryMaker], myself.$$Okay, four.$$Yep, three or four.$$Alright.$$And, and that's when we spun up, yeah.$$Okay. Now--$$But we also had, so we had a good relationship with NASA. So we had adjunct professors from NASA at that time. We had a couple of adjunct professors from NASA, probably two. I think it was Rich and Walls. Actually Rich, Walls and Dean Duffy. So, it was three adjunct professors from NASA. It turned out that one of the professors who taught me at Georgia Tech [Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia] left Georgia Tech and became the lab chief at NASA Goddard. In fact, NASA Goddard [Maryland] recruited pretty heavily from Georgia Tech, because the atmospheric science program there had pretty high prestige, and did the type of modeling and data assimilation, data integration, that was very germane to NASA's earth science program. So, it was, we had a per chance meeting. I had a technical review of the research center at NASA that called over to Goddard. And so we're sitting at this long conference table in his office. He's sitting at one end and I sit down at the other end. And we're talking, and I see him looking at me, you know, kind of, do I know this guy? But I didn't say anything until the end of the meeting and I walked up and I said, "You know, you taught me fluid dynamics in grad school." And he was like, "I knew I knew who you are." (laughter). Franco Einaudi, who was probably one of my favorite professors there. Actually, even though he's not, didn't teach in the area that I performed research in or emphasis, but Franco was the lab chief for the lab of, used to be atmospheric chemistry and dynamics at Goddard. And we sat down and talked, and after that, he's been a huge supporter of our program here.$$How do you spell his last name? It's Franco--$$Franco, F-R-A-N-C-O, first name. Last name, E-I-N-A-U-D-I.$$Okay.$$And you know, he basically allowed for NASA scientists to become adjunct professors. He encouraged them to become adjunct professors in our program. You know, allowed our faculty and students access to facilities there. My first lab, I had trouble finding a lab space on campus. My first lab was at NASA Goddard. He provided me lab space to do experiments over there. So, he's definitely been a mentor and friend and colleague. He's retired now, but we're still in touch.$$Okay. So, Howard has this ongoing partnership with NASA Goddard-$$Yeah.$$And now what is, now is this in Beltsville [Maryland], or--$$No, Beltsville is different. So the Beltsville facility is in--Howard has some land, had some land in Beltsville since the '60s [1960s] or late '60s [1960s], early '70s [1970s]. And basically we saw an opportunity out there to develop an observational facility, a research facility that would be focused on atmospheric sciences. Because I left Howard to work for NASA in 19--, in about 1998.