Katherine Shirey grew up loving physics and art and, 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.
Upon graduation, Katey was awarded the Fifth-Year Aunspaugh Fellowship in the McIntire Department of Art at UVA where she worked as an artist and art teacher. During this time, she realized that she wanted her students to learn more about their world through their art, and that sculpture class was not the place to teach it. She returned to school, earning her master’s degree in physics education from University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education. “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.”
In 2010, Katey travelled to the South Pole to take part in the final construction phase of IceCube, the world’s largest neutrino detector and the biggest research project ever attempted in Antarctica. During her stay in Antarctica, Katey brought polar science to students nationwide through blogs, photo sharing, Facebook and webcasts.