Katherine Freese

Background

Katherine Freese was born on February 8, 1957 in Freiburg, Germany. She is best known for her work in theoretical astrophysics, and her contributions to early research on dark matter transformed her field. Freese lived in Germany until she was nine, when her family emigrated to the United States. Freese credits both her mother and father for inspiring her to pursue a career in the sciences. Both of her parents were biologists, and she has applauded her mother for providing her “a woman role model every day.”


Education

Freese graduated from high school early, and she attended Princeton at the age of 16. She became one of Princeton’s first women to major in physics. While she received many offers from prestigious graduate programs after her Princeton graduation, she decided instead to travel the world. She enjoyed her time in Japan so much that she wanted to live there – she spent two years in Tokyo working as an English teacher and bar hostess. While on a trip to South Korea, she needed an emergency appendectomy. To pass the time during recovery in the hospital, she decided to read the only book she brought along for her trip: Spacetime Physics. This book ignited her passion for astrophysics, and she was hooked. She then returned to the United States, where she enrolled at Columbia University to study her newest interest: dark matter and the universe.


Consequently, she obtained her MA from Columbia, and she went on to earn her PhD at the University of Chicago. She completed postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard University, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Berkeley.


Career


While acting as a Presidential Fellow during her time at UC Berkeley, she became an assistant professor at MIT. After this, she help many professional positions at institutions like University of Michigan, Stockholm University, and finally University of Texas at Austin, where she is currently employed. She was also the Associate Director of the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics and the Director of Nordita, the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics.

Freese was on of the first scientists to develop actionable methods for discovering dark matter, the unknown force that holds galaxies together. In her book, Freese describes dark matter as a secret ingredient of the universe. Discovering and understanding dark matter have long been elusive, but Freese's work introduced new theories that are currently the basis for several ongoing experiments. Her work has also disproved the MACHO (massive compact halo object) dark matter theory, replacing it with the WIMPs (weakly interacting massive particles.

Further, Freese has introduced a new type of star, known as the dark star, and she has also contributed to broadening our understanding of the beginning and potential end of the universe. In addition to her scientific publications, she has also written a book for the general public about dark matter and energy, entitled The Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter.
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At AdaMarie, we love Katherine Freese for her undeniable contributions to the field of astrophysics, and for breaking barriers throughout her career.