Katharine Schutz

Hertz Fellow: Katharine Schutz
School

University of California, Berkeley

Area of Study

Physics

Fellowship Years

2014 - present

Katharine (Katelin) is a theoretical cosmologist, which means she studies our entire observable universe. As an undergrad at MIT she worked on developing cost-effective instrumentation for probing the Epoch of Re-ionization. She then researched inflation, which refers to the “bang” of the Big Bang, and studied its novel, observable consequences on the Cosmic Microwave Background. She also studied the quantum effects of inelastic dark matter that self-scatters on forming dwarf galaxies. If such capitalized words sound complicated, she explains, it’s because rich and interesting datasets are pouring in from new technological advances in experimental cosmology.

“Two extremes come together in our universe,” she says. “Different physical processes happening at widely disparate scales—from incredibly large to incredibly small—can have a lot of cross-talk with each other and the interplay is fascinating. For example, if neutrinos, which are the smallest, lightest particles known were just a tad heavier, they would prevent galaxies from forming.” An author of four publications, and lead author of two of them, Katelin will continue to test new theories using techniques from data science and informatics, as well as her expertise in astrophysics and particle physics.

“It’s been challenging as a female scientist to break into a highly competitive field in which less than 10 percent of theoretical physicists are female. Every time a roadblock came up, I had the guidance I needed to get back on track, and wanted to continue to have that kind of safety net in grad school. I turned to the Hertz Foundation. Its community of exceptionally brilliant scientists are more than willing to share their wisdom. During my second round of Hertz interviews, I mentioned my experience to a woman scientist who was interviewing me. She sent me materials offering advice from many female Hertz Fellows. Soon I’ll meet other new Fellows and am excited about what we can accomplish in the coming years with the boon of the Hertz Fellowship.”