Catherine Pilachowski spent 22 years as an astronomer with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) before joining Indiana University as Professor and the inaugural Daniel Kirkwood Chair in the Department of Astronomy in 2001. At IU, she has served as chair of the Department of Astronomy, Interim Dean of the Office of Women's Affairs, and as the Associate Dean for Graduate Education in the College of Arts and Sciences. Pilachowski has made distinguished contributions to stellar astrophysics and to the astronomical community. Pilachowski was the first to recognize the importance of comparing the chemical compositions among large numbers of clusters and large numbers of stars within individual clusters. This result convincingly showed that the history of star formation in the early galaxy was not monolithic, but sporadic and complicated and spawned the creation of a large subfield of element nucleosynthesis that explores anomalously high temperature hydrogen fusion element generation/destruction in old stellar populations. Pilachowski was also instrumental to the realization of the Wisconsin-Indiana-Yale-NOAO (WIYN) consortium and the international Gemini Observatory project. Pilachowski has published over 330 papers and her research has received over $1.7 million in funding. Professor Pilachowski has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Association of University Women, and the CIC Academic Leadership Program. She has been invited as a visiting lecturer to Harvard University, the Goddard Space Flight Center, and Haverford College. She has served as president of the American Astronomical Society and on numerous NSF and NASA committees.
Pilachowski received the IU Bicentennial Medal in September 2020 in recognition of his distinguished contributions to Indiana University.