Emeriti Faculty

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Chris McKee

Professor Emeritus of Astronomy, Physics

413 Campbell Hall


Specialty areas

Theory of the interstellar medium and of star formation.

Research Interests

He has carried out theoretical investigations of a wide variety of astrophysical phenomena, ranging from the interstellar medium of the Galaxy to quasars and cosmic gamma-ray bursts. His current research focuses on the formation of stars: How do low mass stars like the Sun form? How do the massive stars that create most of the heavy elements form? What determines the rate of star formation in galaxies? How did the first stars form?


Christopher McKee received his AB degree from Harvard and his PhD in physics from UC Berkeley. After a year as a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech and several years as an assistant professor of Astronomy at Harvard, he joined the Physics and Astronomy departments at UC Berkeley, where he has been since 1974. He has received a number of honors for his work: He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and of the American Physical Society.  He has been the Henry Norris Russell Lecturer of the AAS (2016) and is a Legacy Fellow of the AAS. He has also been the Bahcall Lecturer at Tel Aviv University and the Antoinette de Vaucouleurs Medalist and Lecturer at the University of Texas. With Joseph Taylor, he co-chaired the decadal survey in astronomy and astrophysics in 2000, which recommended what is now called the James Webb Space Telescope as its highest priority. At UC Berkeley, he served as founding Director of the Theoretical Astrophysics Center, Director of the Space Sciences Laboratory, Chair of the Physics Department, Interim Dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and Interim Vice Chancellor for Research. A conference in honor of the 70th birthdays of him, David Hollenbach and Frank Shu was held in 2012.