February 10, 2015

American Physical Society Names Kate Kirby its First Chief Executive Officer

COLLEGE PARK, MD – The American Physical Society (APS) Board of Directors voted to select Kate Kirby as the first Chief Executive Officer of APS effective February 2. Kirby has served as Executive Officer of the Society since July 2009.

In November 2015, APS members approved and the Society’s Council adopted significant changes to the APS governance and leadership structure. The changes included reconstitution of the APS Council and Executive Board as the new Council of Representatives and Board of Directors. The restructuring also created the new CEO position in charge of all aspects of Society operations, replacing the Society’s triumvirate leadership structure.

"I am honored to be appointed as the first CEO of APS, managing the operations of the Society, and partnering with the elected leadership during this exciting time," Kirby said. "I am deeply committed to the success of APS in all its many facets."

Before coming to APS, Kirby served as Senior Research Physicist and Associate Director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (1988-2001), heading the Atomic and Molecular Physics Division. From 2001 to 2008, she served as Director of the NSF-funded Institute for Theoretical Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (ITAMP) at Harvard-Smithsonian. She earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry and physics from Harvard and her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Kirby is a Fellow of both APS and AAAS. 

"The CEO position at APS is a new and very important job that is crucial for our future,” said APS Past President Michael Turner, Chair of the CEO pre-Search committee.  “Then-President Mac Beasley charged the pre-Search Committee I led to prepare the APS for the kind of full search needed to find the best person for the job.  Because of her experience and the trust that members, staff and leadership have in her, we enthusiastically recommended to the new APS Board of Directors that Kate Kirby be hired as the first CEO to quickly and smoothly implement the transition to our new governance and executive structure before we turn our attention to the longer term.  Having worked with Kate for the past four years, I am pleased that she has accepted the challenge.”

The Board acted on the recommendations of the pre-Search Committee, which called on APS to finalize its new leadership as quickly as possible. This was a shift from the original transition plan, which outlined a longer process involving a wide search for potential CEO candidates. “The committee made a very compelling case,” said APS President Samuel Aronson.

He added that it was important to have someone head the organization who knows its culture and how it works. With the role of CEO filled, it would help expedite the searches to fill senior staff positions, such as Publisher and Chief Financial Officer. The Board’s vote to adopt the committee’s recommendations was unanimous. “She’s the right person at the right time for this job. We’re fortunate that she is serving as APS’s first CEO,” Aronson noted.

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The American Physical Society is a non-profit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents over 53,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world. Society offices are located in College Park, MD (Headquarters), Ridge, NY, and Washington, D.C.