Fiona A. Harrison

California Institute of Technology

Primary Section: 12, Astronomy
Secondary Section: 13, Physics
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2014)


Fiona Harrison is the Benjamin M. Rosen Professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. Harrison specializes in experimental and observational high energy astrophysics and is recognized for her work developing instrumentation for telescopes that focus high energy X-rays. Harrison received an AB degree from Dartmouth College with high honors in physics, followed by a PhD in physics form the University of California Berkeley. She then went to Caltech as a Millikan Prize Fellow in experimental physics in 1993, and she joined the physics faulty two years later. Harrison was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers by President Clinton in 2000, was named on of America's Best Leaders by U.S. News and the Kennedy School of Government in 2008, and in 2013 was awarded the NASA Outstanding Public Leadership Medal. Harrison is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2015 she was elected as an honorary fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, and was awarded the Bruno Rossi Prize of the American Astronomical Society.

Research Interests

Harrison has focused her research in experimental and observational high-energy astrophysics. In her laboratories and with collaborators around the world she developed detectors and optics for focusing high energy X-rays. This led to the High Energy Focusing Telescope (HEFT) balloon experiment, and ultimately the first focusing X-ray telescope in orbit - NASA's NuSTAR mission. Harrison is the Principal Investigator for both observatories. Harrison has concentrated her scientific interests on studies of accreting black holes, neutron stars, gamma-ray bursts and supernova remnants. Among her most important results are the first image of a supernova remnant in radioactivity, the unambiguous measurement of the spin of the supermassive black hole in NGC 1365, and the discovery of the most luminous accreting pulsar known. Harrison is author on more than 150 refereed articles in scientific journals.

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