Kerstin Perez was born and raised in West Philadelphia, not far from Haverford campus. She attended high school at the city’s historic Central High School, and then went on to earn her B.A. at Columbia University and her Ph.D. from Caltech.
Captivated by the fundamental questions of high-energy particle physics (as well as the opportunity to live in Switzerland), she performed her thesis research at CERN laboratories as a member of the ATLAS collaboration. Her work focused on commissioning the ATLAS pixel detector in preparation for the very first LHC collisions and on understanding hadronic jet physics with initial data.
As a NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, she was seduced away from LHC physics by the opportunity to help design and build the GAPS experiment, a balloon-borne search for antiproton and antideuteron signatures of dark matter interactions in the Galactic halo. With GAPS, Kerstin uses cosmic particles to probe many of the same physics processes explored by the LHC, such as supersymmetry and extra-dimensional theories. Building on her experience with semiconducting detectors, she has led the development of Si(Li) detectors that lie at the heart of the GAPS design. While she was busy looking out to space for hints of new particle interactions, she has also led the analysis of high-energy X-ray signals from the Galactic Center with the NuSTAR satellite telescope array.
Kerstin also places great emphasis on the communication of scientific progress, problems, and passion to the non-expert, in particular to students who, because of cultural factors or lack of exposure, have not considered the career paths that a science education opens. She has participated in many public lecture programs, mentored numerous students, and developed and run a course for high school students based on modern scientific research.
B.A., Columbia University (Physics and Mathematics) - 2005
Ph.D., California Institute of Technology (Physics) - 2011
Astroparticle searches for evidence of dark matter interactions; semiconducting Si detector technology; high-energy X-ray astrophysics and signatures of exotic particle physics processes