Meeting Information

Atomic and Molecular Physics for Forefront Astronomy

December 16, 2009
American Center for Physics
College Park, MD

Speaker: Dr. Kate Kirby, Executive Officer, American Physical Society

Topic: Atomic and Molecular Physics for Forefront Astronomy

Time and Location: Talk starts at 1:00 pm with Q&A to follow. It will be held in one of the first floor conference rooms at the American Center for Physics, One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD. This is located off River Road, between Kenilworth Ave. and Paint Branch Parkway.

Abstract: Across a wide range of wavelengths and encompassing a rich menagerie of astrophysical objects and environments, the need for atomic and molecular studies to advance forefront astronomical research has never been greater. Over the last decade, astronomical discoveries, such as the detection of brown dwarfs and extra-solar planets, and the observation of new phenomena, such as x-rays from comets, have created a demand for more and different kinds of data. The next generation of ground- and space-based instruments with greater sensitivities and higher spectroscopic resolution will expand our windows on the Universe, increasing the pressure for atomic and molecular data of higher accuracy and greater completeness. Examples of recent successes as well as future opportunities for research in this area will be discussed.

Biography: 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 and began her tenure as APS Executive Officer in July 2009.