Katherine Freese

University of Michigan

Katherine FreeseGeneral Councillor


Biographical Summary
Katherine Freese is Professor of Physics at the University of Michigan and Associate Director of the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics (MCTP).  Her research is in the area of theoretical cosmology, at the interface of particle physics and astrophysics. She received her BA in Physics from Princeton University (as far as she knows, she was the second woman to major in Physics at Princeton); her MA in Physics in 1981 from Columbia University; and her PhD in Physics in 1984 from the University of Chicago, where she was recipient of the William Rainey Harper Award Fellowship.  Her first postdoctoral position was at the Harvard/ Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at Santa Barbara and a Presidential Fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley.  She was an Assistant Professor at MIT from 1987-1991, where she was recipient of a SLOAN Foundation Fellowship as well as an NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award.  Then she moved to the University of Michigan where she is now Prof. of Physics.  In 1997 she was Senior Program Officer at the Board of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate at the National Research Council (NRC) in Washington, D.C.  She is currently Visiting Miller Professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Her research focus is in the area of theoretical cosmology, with interests that span particle physics, astrophysics, general relativity, as well as climate science.  One topic of particular emphasis has been the identification of the dark matter and dark energy in the universe, which comprise 24% and 70% of the energy density of the universe respectively and yet are of unknown composition.  She was a pioneer in the development of the particle physics and astrophysics that led to dark matter searches; these ideas have played a key role in the approaches taken by experimentalists looking for dark matter.  Recently she has examined the role of streams of dark matter that arise due to mergers of galaxies.  She has also proposed ideas for the dark energy in the universe.

Freese has also worked on models for inflationary cosmology, in which early rapid expansion of the universe explains its smoothness today and generates seeds for galaxy formation. Her model of "natural inflation" is a good fit to recent data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anistropy Probe (WMAP), and her model of "chain inflation" is a proposal for a series of tunneling events that may apply in the string landscape.

Freese has served on many advisory panels and committees, including the following: she was a Member of the Board of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara from 2000-2003; General Member of the Board of the Aspen Center for Physics from 1993-2003; she is currently a member of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC) mandated by Congress; she currently serves on the DMSAG (Dark Matter Scientific Advisory Group).


Candidate's Statement
As physicists we are privileged to partake in one of the great endeavors of the human experience, whose pursuit guides our fundamental understanding of the universe and shapes our society.   The past fifty years have been a testament to its role, from the advent of the transistor to the discovery of quarks and the acceleration of the universe.  If we are to continue our success, we must inform the public of our research and provide opportunities for young people to pursue careers in physics. I am honored to stand for election to General Council of the American Physical Society and will work towards this mission.

We must engage the public in our excitement as well as act as active advocates for pushing for good science to be funded for this and the next generation.  Science is the "seed corn" for many developments in society which must be sustained.  It is our job to make sure that members of Congress as well as the public at large realize the big returns for society that result from every dollar spent on science; a surprising example was the development of the World Wide Web as a tool initially for particle experimentalists at CERN.

My research, though focused mostly on astrophysics, has also turned to climate science, where I have trained students for industry as well as academics.  My work at the National Research Council on the policy of climate science has developed my interest in ensuring that scientific truth is disseminated to the public as it impacts the future of society.

The numbers of women in physics have been growing (albeit slowly).  As a General Councillor, I will work towards continuing the role of the APS in ensuring that this growth continues towards a critical mass. The issue of underrepresented minorities is even more pressing.  These are exciting times for all of physics and the APS is an important vehicle for ensuring the participation of all interested young people in this venture.

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