Katherine Ann Van Kirk

2021 Hertz Fellow
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Katherine Ann Van Kirk is passionate about finding ways to apply quantum science for social impact.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics from Stanford University in 2019, Katherine investigated bias in quantum machine learning at the University of Cambridge, which she attended on Trinity College’s External Research Studentship. In her master’s essay on the project, she discussed the efficacy of her proposal by evaluating the racial bias of a pervasive risk-assessment tool in the American criminal justice system. After receiving a master’s degree in applied math from Cambridge, she began her PhD in physics at Harvard University.

While an undergraduate at Stanford, Katherine discovered a painting hidden beneath one of the Stanford Art Museum’s most famous works. She spent two years fleshing out the hidden painting’s details with infrared technology and Stanford Hospital’s robotic X-ray, and then curated an art exhibition around her findings.

In addition to her art detective work, she served as a mental health counselor for her peers and ran a nonprofit to empower women in tech leadership. She expanded the nonprofit abroad, doubled the size of its high school program, and hired its first full-time employee.

Katherine enjoys running in the mountains, writing poetry about the sky, and getting lost in art galleries. She grew up in a small town in Virginia with her sister, Caroline, who is her best friend.

Graduate Studies

Harvard University