Carnegie Mellon University

Kathryn McKeough

Kathryn McKeough (S 2015)

Physics and statistics double major, Pugwash president, tennis player


Pondering science's greatest questions

Students enjoying pizza together is such a regular part of the college experience that it rarely turns heads. But when the students are discussing the ethics of hydraulic fracturing or academic corporatization, it’s hard not to take notice. Senior Science and Humanities Scholar Kathryn McKeough oversees this scenario regularly. As the president of Carnegie Mellon’s Student Pugwash organization, McKeough coordinates events where students can discuss and better understand the social and ethical dimensions of science and technology.

“Pugwash got me involved in current events and made me think about things that I’ve never even thought were an issue or that I never would have sat down and talked with someone about,” said McKeough. Currently serving on the board for the National Student Pugwash, McKeough is responsible for using social media and newsletters to reach out to the group’s thousands of members across the country.

While her Pugwash duties keep her busy, the statistics and physics double major is also a physics tutor, the captain of CMU’s tennis club team, and a member of the Booth and Buggy organization Fringe.

“My favorite part about Carnegie Mellon is certainly the people that you meet, whether it’s within an organization, or meeting with professors. I think everyone is willing to be friends and kind of teach you things and tell you about their experience. If you listen, you can learn a lot.”

McKeough is certainly happy that she listened to her physics professor, Helmut Vogel. One day during her sophomore year McKeough was chatting with Professor Vogel about her interest in statistics and physics. He suggested she look into astrostatistics—a field that applies advanced statistical techniques to questions in astrophysics. Intrigued, McKeough contacted astrophysicist Peter Freeman, who works in CMU’s Department of Statistics. Ever since, McKeough has worked with Freeman on projects that evaluate the statistics used to detect galaxy clusters. The summer after her junior year she continued her astrostatistics research at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. She plans to attend graduate school to pursue a career in astrostatistics—and to keep attending Pugwash meetings.