The Board of Regents and Headmaster of Portsmouth Abbey School are proud to announce that Dr. Karin Öberg will deliver the commencement address to the Class of 2020 on Sunday, June 13. The School is delighted to welcome last year’s graduates back to campus to celebrate a long-awaited and eventful commencement weekend, which was postponed from last spring, due to COVID-19 restrictions. Headmaster Dan McDonough remarked, "It's only appropriate that the Class of 2020, the class that began their final year with both the dedication of the Science Building and the 100th Anniversary of the Monastery, have a speaker who is equally at home in the realms of both faith and science."
Karin Öberg is professor of astronomy at Harvard University. Her specialty is astrochemistry, and her research aims to uncover how chemical processes affect the outcome of planet formation, especially the chemical habitability of nascent planets. Her research group approaches this question through laboratory experiments, simulating the exotic chemistry that gives rise to chemical complexity in space, through astrochemical modeling, and through astronomical observations of molecules in planet-forming disks around young stars.
Dr. Öberg left Sweden for Caltech in 2001, where she matriculated with a B.Sc. in chemistry in 2005. Four years later she obtained a Ph.D. in astronomy, with a thesis focused on laboratory astrochemistry. In 2009 she moved to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics with a Hubble fellowship, focusing on millimeter observations of protoplanetary disks. In 2013 she joined the Harvard astronomy department, and was promoted to full professor with tenure in 2017. Dr. Öberg’s research in astrochemistry has been recognized with a Sloan fellowship, a Packard fellowship, the Newton Lacy Pierce Award from the American Astronomical Society, and a Simons fellowship.
Dr. Öberg came to faith while pursuing her Ph.D. and joined the Catholic Church seven years later. Since then, she has been vocal about the compatibility between her faith and her work as a scientist. As a board member of the Society of Catholic Scientists, she is particularly passionate about encouraging Catholic students in the sciences.