Katherine Shirey, a KSTF Senior Fellow, grew up loving physics and art. As an undergraduate, she was able to combine her two passions. She attempted to explain physics and physical phenomenon through large-scale kinetic sculptures and installations. In her physics classes, she examined the process of smelting bronze and the rotational acceleration of a potter’s wheel. Katey graduated from the University of Virginia (UVA) with bachelor’s degrees in both physics and studio art, and a minor in art history. Says Katey, “What I really like about art and physics is that both subjects have the potential for infinite possible outcomes, thus encouraging the artist or physicist to take varied approaches supported by strong reasoning.”
After receiving her Master of Teaching in Secondary Science from UVA, Katey taught various levels of physics in her hometown of Arlington, Va., for five years. During this time, she worked in teams to develop rigorous, conceptual-based physics curriculum for students of all levels—from fundamental to International Baccalaureate (IB).
In 2010, Katey was selected to participate as teacher liaison to researchers at the IceCube Project, a neutrinos study project located at the South Pole Research Station in Antarctica. Through this project, she traveled to the South Pole and developed curriculum to connect polar science to the classroom. Two years later, she was chosen to present her work with the IceCube Project at the National Science Teacher Association’s National Conference. Additionally, Katey distinguished herself in 2013, when she became an astronaut candidate finalist with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Katey has returned to school to earn a doctorate in physics education. While studying at the University of Maryland, she hopes to explore the connection between creativity and physics instruction through research. In addition to her coursework, Katey provides support to the Teaching Fellows, Teacher Developers and the Senior Program Officer in phase one of the KSTF Teaching Fellowship.