Carnegie Mellon University
May 18, 2015

Physics Student Receives 2015 Judith A. Resnik Award

Physics Student Receives 2015 Judith A. Resnik Award Physics Student Receives 2015 Judith A. Resnik Award

Kathryn McKeough, a 2015 graduate with a B.S. in physics with an additional major in statistics, received the Judith A. Resnik Award during commencement weekend. The award, which honors Carnegie Mellon alumna and space shuttle Challenger astronaut Dr. Judith A. Resnik, is presented annually to an outstanding woman graduating in the sciences or engineering who plans to attend graduate school and whose academic performance, creativity and vision illustrate potential for high academic achievement in her field.

As a physics and statistics double major and Science and Humanities Scholar, McKeough pursued her interests in both fields while conducting research at the intersection of the two. Her research focuses on astrostatistics—a field that uses statistical methods to analyze data and solve problems in astrophysics.

“Katy has worked on several different projects in astrophysics. What is remarkable is that the topics themselves—quasars, weak gravitational lensing, correcting telescopic images—are widely different from each other,” said Kunal Ghosh, teaching professor of physics and McKeough’s advisor. “She is the best student personification I have found of the Carnegie Mellon spirit of cross-disciplinary collaboration!”

Beginning her sophomore year, McKeough started working with Peter Freeman in CMU’s Department of Statistics and has worked on research projects with Shirley Ho and Rachel Mandelbaum in the Department of Physics. McKeough recently completed a Dietrich College honors thesis, “Redshift Dependence of the Power Spectrum in Sloan Digital Sky Survey 11 Quasars,” as part of that work. The summers after her sophomore and junior years McKeough conducted astrostatistics research at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. She has presented her research at American Astronomical Society conferences and an American Geophysical Union conference.

McKeough was also active in many campus organizations. She was the captain of CMU’s tennis club team and the Push Captain for the Booth and Buggy organization Fringe. She was a teaching assistant in the Physics Department, a peer tutor with Academic Development and a mentor for first-year students in the Mellon College of Science.

During her junior year, McKeough served as president of Carnegie Mellon’s Student Pugwash organization, a forum where students can discuss and better understand the social and ethical dimensions of science and technology. She also served on the board for the National Student Pugwash, where she was responsible for using social media and newsletters to reach out to the group’s thousands of members across the country.

McKeough graduated with university and college honors. She will attend Harvard University to pursue a doctorate in statistics with a focus on astrostatistics.

Recipients of the Judith A. Resnik Award receive $1,000 and a certificate of recognition, and their names are added to Carnegie Mellon’s Judith A. Resnik Award Recipient plaque in the Cohon University Center.