Henric Krawczynski

Henric Krawczynski

Chair and Professor of Physics
Wilfred R. and Ann Lee Konneker Distinguished Professor in Physics
PhD, University of Hamburg
MSc, University of Hamburg
research interests:
  • Experimental Astrophysics
  • Theoretical Astrophysics
  • Black Holes

contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
    MSC 1105-109-02
    One Brookings Drive
    St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

​Professor Krawczynski works on experimental and theoretical astroparticle physics. His work aims at revealing the inner workings of astrophysical black holes, and using black hole and neutron star observations for testing the theory of General Relativity and the Standard Model of Particle Physics in regimes not accessible in terrestrial laboratories.

Krawczynski is the Principal Investigator of the balloon-borne XL-Calibur polarimetry mission. X-Calibur studies the polarization of hard X-rays from mass accreting black holes and rotation and accretion powered neutron stars. The experiment was flown in 2022 from Esrange, Sweden. Krawczynski is furthermore a member of the science team of the Imaging X-ray Polarimeter Explorer (IXPE) - a NASA mission targeting black holes and neutron stars which was launched on Dec. 9, 2021. Click here for free online access to the Science paper “Polarized x-rays constrain the disk-jet geometry in the black hole x-ray binary Cygnus X-1” by Krawczynski, Muleri, Dovčiak, Veledina et al. (2022). 

In his lab, Krawczynski works on the development of cryogenic and semiconductor X-ray and gamma-ray detectors for future NASA missions. He collaborates with scientists at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST, Boulder, CO) on the development of cryogenic microcalorimeter arrays read out by Transition Edge Sensors, and with scientists at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on the development of hybrid Cadmium Zinc Telluride detector and Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) packages.

Both types of detectors can be in the focal plane of a future hard X-ray imaging spectroscopy mission. One of the missions is a hard X-ray imaging spectroscopy mission following up on the NuSTAR mission, and another one is a 511 keV gamma-ray telescope that can study 511 keV gamma-rays from dark matter annihilation at the center of our Milky Way galaxy.

On the theoretical side, Krawczynski studies general properties of radiation processes, the observational appearance of black holes (based on General Relativistic ray tracing studies) and gravitationally lensed black holes, and on models describing the continuum emission from the ultrafast outflows of mass accreting black holes.  

Henric Krawczynski is one of four founding members of the Washington University Center for Quantum Leaps and a member of the Washington University McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences.

    recent courses

    Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmology (Physics 126)

    Intended as a general survey for the non-science major. Topics include the structure and evolution of stars from birth to exotic final stages, such as red giants, white dwarfs, neutron stars, pulsars and black holes. Features of galaxies and quasars, cosmology, and the Big Bang theory.

      Gravitation and Cosmology (Physics 557)

      Special relativity, equivalence principle, and fundamental experiments. Mathematics of curved spacetime. General structure of Einstein's equations. Observational tests. Applications of general relativity, relativistic stellar structure, gravitational collapse and black holes.

        Quantum Mechanics II (Physics 524)

        Review of wave mechanics, scattering theory. Measurement algebra and the foundations of nonrelativistic quantum theory. Mathematical techniques for solution, perturbation theory. Applications to atomic, molecular, nuclear, and solid state problems. Introduction to relativistic quantum theory and quantized wave fields.

          Testing Fundamental Physics with Astronomical Observations (Physics 559)

          Astronomical observations allow us to test fundamental physics laws under more extreme conditions than possible in terrestrial laboratories. In some important cases (i.e. cosmology), astronomical observations present the only way to gather empirical evidence and to formulate and subsequently test the theories. In this one-semester course, we start with a brief summary of the current theoretical framework that is used to explain the cosmos: the theory of General Relativity and the Standard Model of particle physics. Subsequently, we introduce current astronomical observatories and discuss which fundamental physics laws they can probe. We include a detailed discussion of theoretical ideas which are being probed, and avenues for developing more precise tests with future experiments.

            Honors and Awards

            2007 Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award of the Graduate Student Senate
            2004 Department of Energy Outstanding Junior Investigator Award
            2001-2002 Gibbs Research/Instructor Fellowship at Yale
            1992-1993 German DAAD Fellowship

            Professional Societies

            American Astronomical Society


            Professional Activities

            • Director of Undergraduate Studies at Washington University, Department of Physics, 2012-2018.
            • Member of the Executive Committee of the Physics of the Cosmos Program Analysis Group (PhysPAG), 2015-2017.
            • Member of the Executive Committee of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society, 2013-2016.
            • Participation in the 2010 NRC decadal survey of astronomy and astrophysics in the "galaxies across cosmic time" Science Frontier Panel.
            • Member of the Fermi User Group (2007-2010).
            • Member of the scientific organizing committee of the COSPAR panel "X-RAY POLARIMETRY: EXPERIMENTS AND SCIENCE PROSPECTS", 41st COSPAR Scientific Assembly, Istanbul, Turkey, August 30- July 7, 2016.
            • Member of the scientific organizing committee of the conference "Relativistic Jets: Creation, Dynamics, and Internal Physics," Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland, April 20-24, 2015.
            • Scientific organizer of a special session on "Ballooning and Sounding Rockets" at the 14th Meeting of the High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), Chicago, IL, August 17-21, 2014
            • Lead scientific organizer of the SNOWPAC Special Session on the "Physics and Astrophysics with X-ray Polarization", Feb. 1, 2011, Snowbird, (UT).

            From our podcast:

            Hold That Thought Podcast

            Glimpsing the unseeable physics of a black hole

            Physicists in Arts & Sciences will use X-ray emissions to gain insight into a supermassive black hole billions of light-years from Earth by using a distant galaxy as a magnifying glass.