Kathryn Zurek received her Ph.D. in particle astrophysics from the Institute for Nuclear Theory at the University of Washington in 2006. She was then a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, working on physics beyond the Standard Model, and then the David Schramm Fellow in the theoretical astrophysics group at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. In 2009, she became an assistant and then associate professor at the University of Michigan, before moving to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In 2014, she began working as a member of the Joint Particle Theory Group at the Berkeley Center for Theoretical Physics. In 2019 she became a professor of theoretical physics at Caltech. Her interests lie primarily at the boundary between particle physics, and astrophysics and cosmology.
Zurek specializes in theories of dark matter and new ideas for how one might detect it, either in terrestrial laboratories or through astrophysical observation. She is known for her proposal of Hidden Valley theories, which highlighted new experimental signatures at the Large Hadron Collider and opened the new paradigm of hidden-sector dark matter. Zurek also proposed the theory of asymmetric dark matter, which motivates a new class of experiments searching for light dark matter. Recently, she has explored a new direction in experimental signatures of quantum gravity.