May 11, 2009

Harvard-Smithsonian Research Physicist Dr. Kate Kirby Named New APS Executive Officer

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Physical Society (APS) is pleased to announce, following a national search, that Dr. Kate Kirby, research physicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and lecturer in the Harvard University Department of Astronomy, has accepted the position of Executive Officer of the Society, the premier professional organization of more than 47,000 physicists from academia, national laboratories and industry, and a leading publisher of scientific journals.

Her appointment is effective late July 2009. Dr. Kirby replaces Dr. Judy Franz, who is retiring from APS after 15 years of service.

"Dr. Kirby will bring visionary leadership and commitment to the APS,” said Dr. Cherry A. Murray, APS president. "We are thrilled at her appointment. She is a distinguished physicist who deeply understands the missions and operations of APS. With the scientific taste, eloquence, and diplomatic skill she has demonstrated in her career, she will be an exceptional advocate for all of physics. We are also extremely grateful for the extraordinary leadership that Dr. Judy Franz has provided over the last 15 years."

Dr. Kirby earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry and physics from Harvard/Radcliffe College in 1967 and her PhD 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). She also is a Senior Research Fellow of the Harvard College Observatory. 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 National Science Foundation-funded Institute for Theoretical Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (ITAMP) at Harvard and Smithsonian.

Dr. Kirby’s research interests lie in theoretical atomic and molecular physics, particularly the calculation of atomic and molecular processes important in astrophysics and atmospheric physics. In 1990, she was elected as an APS Fellow.

She has both chaired and served on numerous APS committees, 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 (2005-06). She was elected APS Councilor-at-Large (1991-93) and Divisional Councilor for the Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (DAMOP) (2003-07) and elected to the APS Executive Board (2005-06). In addition, she has served as Vice-Chair, Chair-Elect, and Chair of DAMOP (1995-98).

Her other activities include membership on the Department of Energy Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (2003-2008) and co-chair of the BESAC Subcommittee on Theory and Computation, member of the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Decadal Assessment Committee for Atomic, Molecular and Optical (AMO) Science (AMO2010), and Chair of the International Conference on Photonic, Electronic, and Atomic Collisions (2001-2003).

Dr. Kirby said she is elated about beginning her tenure at APS.

"Having served the Society for well over two decades as a volunteer on a number of committees, the Council and Executive Board, I am excited to be joining the APS leadership team,” she said. "I look forward to working with APS staff and the membership to advocate for physics in the public arena and to serve the community of physicists throughout the U.S. and the world.”

She added that APS will continue its crucial role of informing policymakers on the importance of science in developing solutions to national challenges.

Dr. Franz said she is delighted that Dr. Kirby is succeeding her as Executive Officer.

"Kate brings the same love of physics and strong commitment to the broad physics community that I have, and I am sure that she will use these to continue to strengthen APS and physics itself," said Dr. Franz.

Kate Kirby 2009Ken Cole/APS

Kate Kirby
APS Executive Officer Designate


About APS

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.