Frances Hellman

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Frances Hellman is a physicist at University of California, Berkeley who studies the thermodynamic properties of novel solid materials, especially thin film semiconducting, superconducting, and magnetic materials. She has served as chair of the physics department and holds a dual appointment in the materials science and engineering department.

Early life and education[edit]

In 1978 Hellman graduated from summa cum laude and phi beta kappa with high honors in physics from Dartmouth College.[1] Hellman obtained her Ph.D. in applied physics at Stanford University in 1985.


After receiving her Ph.D., Hellman then served as a postdoctoral fellow at Bell Laboratories from 1985-1987 focusing on thin film magnetism. She moved to San Diego, CA to become an assistant professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego 1987, where she worked until 2004. She received tenure in 1994 and became a full professor in 2000. Hellman is a fellow of the American Physical Society.

Hellman joined the Physics Department at UC Berkeley in January 2005. She served as Chair of the Department from 2007 to 2013.


Hellman is the daughter of Chris and Warren Hellman of San Francisco, who were heirs to the Levi Strauss & Co. blue jeans fortune and are part of the firm of Hellman & Friedman LLC, a private investment company. The Hellman family are major donors to the University of California and maintain a close relationship with the administrative end of UC.[2] Frances Hellman married Robert Dynes, former UC President, in May 1998 and they divorced in 2006.


External links[edit]