Christopher F. McKee

University of California, Berkeley


Primary Section: 12, Astronomy
Secondary Section: 13, Physics
Membership Type: Member (elected 1992)

Biosketch

Christopher McKee received his AB degree from Harvard in 1963, his PhD in physics from Berkeley in 1970 (Hertz Fellow) and was a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech. After being an assistant professor of astronomy at Harvard he has been on the faculty of the Departments of Physics and of Astronomy at Berkeley since 1974. In addition to being a member of the National Academy of Sciences, he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Legacy Fellow of the American Astronomical Society, and a fellow of the American Physical Society. He has been the Bahcall Lecturer at Tel Aviv University and the Antoinette de Vaucouleurs Medalist and Lecturer at the University of Texas. He was awarded the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship by the American Astronomical Society in 2016. He was the founding director of the Theoretical Astrophysics Center (1985), the director of the Space Sciences Laboratory (1985-1998), the chair of the Physics Department (2000-2004), the Interim Dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (2014), and the Interim Vice Chancellor for Research (2015-16). With Joseph Taylor, he co-chaired the Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey (1998- 2001). 

Research Interests

He has carried out theoretical investigations of a wide variety of astrophysical phenomena, ranging from the interstellar medium of the Galaxy to quasars and cosmic gamma-ray bursts. His current research focuses on the structure and evolution of molecular clouds and the star formation that occurs within them: How do low mass stars like the Sun form? How do the massive stars that create most of the heavy elements form? What determines the rate of star formation in galaxies? How did the first stars form? He and his collaborators developed the turbulent core model for massive star formation and the first comprehensive theory for the rate of star formation in galaxies.

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