Katherine Freese

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Katherine Freese
Katherine Freese.jpg
Born (1957-02-08) February 8, 1957 (age 66)
Freiburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Alma materPrinceton University, Columbia University, University of Chicago
Known forDark matter, Dark stars, Dark energy, Inflation
AwardsSimons Foundation Fellowship (2012)
Lilienfeld Prize (2019)
Member of the National Academy Sciences (2020)
Scientific career
FieldsAstrophysics, Cosmology
InstitutionsUniversity of Texas at Austin
University of Michigan
Nordita, Stockholm University
Doctoral advisorDavid Schramm
Doctoral studentsJanna Levin

Katherine Freese (born 8 February 1957[1]) is a theoretical astrophysicist. She is currently a professor of physics at the University of Texas at Austin, where she holds the Jeff and Gail Kodosky Endowed Chair in Physics. She is known for her work in theoretical cosmology at the interface of particle physics and astrophysics.

Education and Academic Career[edit]

Freese received her BA from Princeton University, one of the first women to major in physics at Princeton.[2] She obtained her MA from Columbia University, and her PhD at the University of Chicago from advisor David Schramm. After postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard University, at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at University of California, Santa Barbara, and as a Presidential Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, she became an assistant professor at MIT. She moved to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she was the George E. Uhlenbeck Professor of Physics. From 2007 to 2014 she was associate director of the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics. In September 2014, she assumed the position of director of Nordita, the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics, in Stockholm, and holds a position as visiting professor of physics at Stockholm University. In 2019, Freese moved to the University of Texas at Austin, where she holds the Jeff and Gail Kodosky Endowed Chair in Physics.[3]


Freese has contributed to early research on dark matter and dark energy. She was one of the first to propose ways to discover dark matter.[4] Her idea of indirect detection in the Earth is being pursued by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory experiment,[5] and the "wind" of dark matter particles felt as the Earth orbits the Milky Way (work with David Spergel) is being searched for in worldwide experiments. Her work decisively ruled out MACHO (Massive compact halo object) dark matter in favor of WIMPs (weakly interacting massive particles).[6] She has proposed a model known as "Cardassian expansion," in which dark energy is replaced with a modification of Einstein's equations.[7] Recently she proposed a new theoretical type of star, called a dark star, powered by dark matter annihilation rather than fusion.[8]

Freese has also worked on the beginnings of the universe, including the search for a successful inflationary theory to kick off the Big Bang. Her natural inflation model [9] is a theoretically well-motivated variant of inflation; it uses axionic-type particles to provide the required flat potentials to drive the expansion. In 2013, observations made by the European Space Agency's Planck Satellite show that the framework of natural inflation matches the data.[10] She has studied the Ultimate fate of the universe, including the fate of life in the universe.[11]"

Freese has served on the board of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara and the board of the Aspen Center for Physics. From 2008-2012 she was a councilor and member of the executive committee of the American Physical Society, and from 2005-2008 she was a member of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC). Currently she serves on the board of the Oskar Klein Centre for Cosmoparticle Physics in Stockholm.


Freese was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2009. She received a Simons Foundation Fellowship in Theoretical Physics in 2012.[12] In September 2012, Freese was awarded an Honorary Doctorate (Honoris Causa) from the University of Stockholm.[13] She was awarded the 2019 Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize from the American Physical Society "For ground-breaking research at the interface of cosmology and particle physics, and her tireless efforts to communicate the excitement of physics to the general public." In 2021 she was awarded the University of Chicago Alumni Professional Achievement Award. In 2020 she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.[14][15]

Personal life[edit]

Freese was born in Freiburg, Germany, to Ernst Freese and Elisabeth Bautz Freese. At age nine months she emigrated to the United States. From her ten-year marriage to Fred Adams she has a son, Douglas Quincy Adams. Her brother Andrew Freese, deceased, was Chief of Neurosurgery at Brandywine Hospital, and performed the first surgery for gene therapy on humans. Her uncle Ekkehard Bautz, now retired, was a molecular biologist and chair of the Institute of Molecular Genetics at the University of Heidelberg. Her cousin Anja Freese, a German actor, currently resides in Los Angeles.

Popular science[edit]

Freese has written a review for the general educated public on dark matter and energy as they relate to recent research in cosmology and particle physics, titled The Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter (Science Essentials, 2014, ISBN 0691153353). The book is partly autobiographical. She covers the contributions of Fritz Zwicky, for example, who was recently profiled as "the most important astronomer you've never heard of" and "the father of dark matter" on Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.[citation needed]

Freese has appeared in seasons 3 and 5 of Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman.


  1. ^ "Katherine Freese". Physics Today. 2016. doi:10.1063/pt.5.031149.
  2. ^ Renken, Elena (2016-09-20). "University of Michigan professor delves into dark matter". Brown Daily Herald. Retrieved 2018-02-03.
  3. ^ "Katherine Freese Has Ideas to Support Detection of Dark Matter". cns.utexas.edu. Retrieved 2019-09-25.
  4. ^ Drukier, Andrzej; Katherine Freese; David Spergel (1986). "Detecting Cold Dark Matter Candidates". Physical Review D. 33 (12): 3495–3508. Bibcode:1986PhRvD..33.3495D. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.33.3495. PMID 9956575.
  5. ^ Freese, Katherine (1986). "Can Scalar Neutrinos or Massive Dirac Neutrinos be the Missing Mass". Physics Letters. B167 (3): 295–300. Bibcode:1986PhLB..167..295F. doi:10.1016/0370-2693(86)90349-7.
  6. ^ James Glanz, The New York Times, Feb. 2000, [1], "In the Dark Matter Wars, WIMPs beat MACHOs",
  7. ^ Dennis Overbye, The New York Times, Nov. 2003, [2], "What is Gravity, Really?"
  8. ^ Freese, Katherine; Bodenheimer, Peter; Spolyar, Douglas; Gondolo, Paolo (2008). "Stellar Structure of Dark Stars: A First Phase of Stellar Evolution Resulting from Dark Matter Annihilation". The Astrophysical Journal. 685 (2): L101–L104. arXiv:0806.0617. Bibcode:2008ApJ...685L.101F. doi:10.1086/592685. S2CID 16088040.
  9. ^ Freese, Katherine; Joshua Frieman; Angela Olinto (1990). "Natural Inflation with Pseudo-Nambu Goldstone Bosons". Physical Review Letters. 65 (26): 3233–3236. Bibcode:1990PhRvL..65.3233F. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.65.3233. PMID 10042817.
  10. ^ Collaboration, Planck (2014). "Planck 2013 Results XXII: Constraints on Inflation". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 571: A22. arXiv:1303.5082. Bibcode:2014A&A...571A..22P. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201321569. S2CID 53621995.
  11. ^ Philip Ball, [3], "Never Say Die", New Scientist, Aug. 2002
  12. ^ "Simons Fellows in Theoretical Physics". Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  13. ^ "Honorary doctorates 2012 - Stockholm University". www.su.se. Retrieved 2020-03-03.
  14. ^ "2020 NAS Election". National Academy of Sciences. April 27, 2020. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  15. ^ "Three UT Austin Faculty Elected to National Academy of Sciences". April 27, 2020. Retrieved 2020-04-30.

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