Krawczynski installed as Wilfred R. and Ann Lee Konneker Distinguished Professor of Physics

Henric Krawczynski, the Wilfred R. and Ann Lee Konneker Distinguished Professor of Physics, and Feng Sheng Hu, the Richard G. Engelsmann Dean of Arts & Sciences. (Photo: Rebecca K. Clark/Washington University)

On Feb. 29, Henric Krawczynski was installed as the Wilfred R. and Ann Lee Konneker Distinguished Professor of Physics. The program included a welcome from Feng Sheng Hu, the Richard G. Engelsmann Dean of Arts & Sciences and Lucille P. Markey Distinguished Professor; an introduction by Mark G. Alford, professor of physics; and the installation and medallion presentation by Dean Hu.

In his installation address titled "The Bright Side of Black Holes," Krawczynski discussed the physics of black holes and the multiple approaches his team has taken to peer more closely at the massive objects. He discussed past and future missions that will help illuminate the source of X-rays and gamma rays that stream from cosmic hot spots. “People think of black holes as dark, but they’re actually some of the brightest things in the universe,” he said.

Krawczynski noted that the interaction of matter and space-time near black holes offers insights into the origin and evolution of the universe while proving Einstein’s theory of general relativity. “Working with that elegant theory has been one of the joys of my career,” he said.

Throughout the address, Krawczynski credited his team for providing the ideas and technical expertise to make his work possible. “We are a large, diverse group who all work together,” he said. “I’m very grateful for my undergraduate students, graduate students, technicians, engineers, and fellow faculty members. We get more done together than any one of us could accomplish on our own.”

About Henric S. Krawczynski

Henric S. Krawczynski earned his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in physics from the University of Hamburg in Germany. His doctoral research focused on high-energy gamma-ray emission from gamma-ray bursts, which are bright cosmic explosions. After completing his Ph.D. in 1997, Krawczynski continued his research on the transient gamma-ray sky as a post-doctoral scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg (1997-2000) and Yale University (2000-2002).

In 2002, Krawczynski joined the Department of Physics at Washington University in St. Louis. His work encompasses experimental, observational, and theoretical projects. Currently, he is the principal investigator of two NASA missions conducted on stratospheric balloons. The first mission, XL-Calibur, is used to study the X-ray emission from black hole-star binary systems. The second mission, DR-TEST, tests quantum detectors in preparation for a larger mission constraining the nature of dark matter. Krawczynski and his colleagues also use X-ray observations with NASA’s satellites to investigate astrophysical processes close to black holes and neutron stars. Krawczynski has authored and co-authored over 275 peer-reviewed journal articles and one book, entitled “Relativistic Jets from Active Galactic Nuclei.”

Krawczynski is a member of the Washington University McDonnell Center for Space Sciences and the Center for Quantum Leaps. He served as the director of undergraduate studies for the Department of Physics from 2012 to 2018 and is currently chair of the department

About Wilfred R. and Ann Lee Konneker

Wilfred R. Konneker, PhD ’50 was a pioneer in nuclear medicine and radiopharmaceuticals. He founded or co-founded numerous successful companies and ran the pharmaceutical division of Mallinckrodt.

Raised in Greenfield, Ohio, Konneker earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Ohio University. In 1947, he began his doctoral work in physics at Washington University under the mentorship of Nobel laureate and former university Chancellor Arthur Holly Compton.

After earning his doctorate in 1950, Konneker co-founded Nuclear Consultants, the nation’s first commercial supplier of radioactive isotopes for the pharmaceutical industry. When Mallinckrodt bought the company in 1966, Konneker became vice president of its diagnostics division.

Konneker served four years on the university’s Board of Trustees and then served as a trustee emeritus from July 1997 until his death in 2016. He also served on the Arts & Sciences National Council and the Alumni Board of Governors. In 1991, Konneker received Washington University’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

Ann Lee Konneker earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the Ohio State University in 1945. After the couple moved to St. Louis, she became philanthropically involved in many of the city’s cultural institutions including the Center of Creative Arts (COCA), Dance Saint Louis, Missouri Botanical Garden, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, St. Louis Symphony, The Sheldon Concert Hall, Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri History Museum, the Saint Louis Zoo, and a host of others. In 1998, Dr. and Mrs. Konneker made a commitment to establish the Wilfred R. and Ann Lee Konneker Distinguished Professorship in Physics.