Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Candidate for Chair-Elect, Nominating Committee
Kate Kirby received her A.B. in Chemistry and Physics from Harvard/Radcliffe College in 1967 and her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1972. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard College Observatory (1972-73), she was appointed as research physicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Lecturer in the Harvard University Department of Astronomy (1973-86, and 2003 - present). From 1988 to 2001 she served as an Associate Director at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, heading the Atomic and Molecular Physics Division. In 2001 she was appointed Director of the NSF-funded Institute for Theoretical Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (ITAMP) at Harvard and Smithsonian.
Kirby's research interests lie in the area of theoretical atomic and molecular physics, particularly focusing on the calculation of atomic and molecular processes important in astrophysics and atmospheric physics. Recent work has included studies of collision-broadened alkali atom resonance lines (seen in the atmospheres of brown dwarf stars), electron impact excitation of highly-charged ions (to understand astrophysical x-ray spectra), molecular line opacities in cool stellar atmospheres, and formation and destruction of small molecules in astrophysical environments. In addition she is working on processes for forming ultracold polar molecules via laser-induced photoassociation and using such systems as a platform for robust quantum computation. In 1990 she was elected to Fellowship in the APS.
Kirby has both chaired and served on numerous committees of the American Physical Society, including the Fellowship Committee (1993- 95), the Nominating Committee (1994-96), the APS Ethics Task Force (2002-2003), the Committee on Prizes and Awards (2005-2006), and the Search Committee for APS Leadership positions (Editor-in-Chief and Treasurer, 2005-06). She was elected APS councilor-at-large (1991-93) and Divisional Councilor for DAMOP (2003-07) and elected to the Executive Board of APS (2005-06). In addition she has served as Vice-Chair, Chair-Elect, and Chair of DAMOP (1995-98).
Other activities include membership on the Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (2003-2008) and co-chair of the BESAC Subcommittee on Theory and Computation, member of the NAS/NRC Decadal Assessment Committee for Atomic, Molecular and Optical Science (AMO2010), Chair of the International Conference on Photonic, Electronic, and Atomic Collisions (2001-2003), and member of the Editorial Board of Reports on Progress in Physics (2007 - present).
As the premier professional organization for physicists in the U.S., the American Physical Society serves its membership in a number of important ways, including: organizing meetings for physicists, maintaining an outstanding series of journals for publication of physics research, educating and informing government and the public on issues involving physics, and cultivating a positive image regarding the study of physics and the importance of support to maintain a vital physics research enterprise. These many activities can only be carried out effectively with the strong involvement of members who volunteer their time and effort on numerous committees of the APS and in many leadership positions throughout the organization. Recruiting those individuals who are both highly qualified and willing to serve the organization is the critical task of the Nominating Committee. If elected to chair this committee, I would work to identify and attract the most able candidates, from a broad range of physics backgrounds, so that the APS membership will have an excellent and diverse slate of candidates from which to select its leaders.