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Kate Kirby earned her bachelor's degree in chemistry and physics from Harvard/Radcliffe College and her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard College Observatory she was appointed as Research Physicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Lecturer in the Harvard University Department of Astronomy. From 1988 to 2001, she served as an Associate Director at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, heading the Atomic and Molecular Physics Division. From 2001-2007, she served as Director of the Institute for Theoretical Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (ITAMP) at Harvard and Smithsonian. From 2009-2014, she served as Executive Officer of the American Physical Society. In 2015, she was appointed the first Chief Executive Officer of the American Physical Society.
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. She is a fellow of both APS and AAAS.