Mentor Bios

Mentor Bios


 Michelle Lochner

I was born in South Africa and did all my studying there. I loved the stars since I was a little girl but it was only when I heard about the SKA that I realised someone might actually pay me for it. I did my undergraduate at Rhodes University in Physics, Maths and a little Computer Science and then moved to Cape Town do to my Honours with NASSP at the University of Cape Town, where I stayed to do my PhD. I then moved to University College London for a two year postdoc before returning to South Africa in 2016. I now have a resident researcher position joint between the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences and the SKA/SA. My focus is on cosmology and trying to get the best out of combining optical and radio telescopes like LSST and the SKA. I spend most of my time developing new statistical techniques and using machine learning to tackle the masses of data we are dealing with in Astronomy.

Sarah Shandera

Assistant Professor of Physics, Pennsylvania State University

I grew up in a rural and mountainous part of the United States (the state of Montana). I always loved math, and although I certainly did not love my introductory physics courses, I stuck it out until the mathematical framework of physics started to make sense to me. After that, I couldn’t let physics go in spite of the challenges. I began my undergraduate studies in physics and mathematics at the University of Wyoming, and finished at the University of Arizona. Several important mentors in Arizona helped me figure out what graduate school was all about, and I went on to complete my PhD in physics at Cornell University. I held postdoctoral positions at Columbia University in New York City and at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada. I am currently an assistant professor of physics at the Pennsylvania State University. I am a cosmologist, and enjoy the process of taking theoretical ideas about the very early universe through to predictions for observations, and then correcting my ideas based on what the data says. I have a partner who is also a physicist and a three year old daughter, who reminds me nearly every day how a fresh perspective can lead one to ask very good questions!

Valeria Pettorino

Astrophysics Department,  CEA Paris Saclay, France

I was born in Napoli, Italy, where I did my studies. I got my PhD in Physics in 2005 and then moved, worked and lived in different places since then: Italy (Torino, Trieste), USA (New York), Switzerland (Geneva), Germany (Heidelberg). Since December 2016 I am staff at CEA Paris Saclay, in France, at the Astrophysics Department. My research concerns the field of cosmology, the study of the Universe and the forms of energy in it, in particular related to Dark Energy, Dark Matter and models beyond Einstein theory of General Relativity. I am a theoretical physicist who likes to work with data and uses them to test predictions of different cosmological scenarios. For that purpose, I have joined experimental collaborations, such as Planck  (for which I led the analysis on Dark Energy and Modified Gravity) and Euclid  ESA/NASA space satellite (for which I coordinate the forecast activity that predicts how well the Euclid satellite will perform to test theories). I spend most of my working time testing Dark Energy, learning about new theories, programming, supervising students, doing teleconferences, coordinating international collaborative tasks, writing applications, evaluating applications, travelling to attend meetings or give talks. I enjoy organizing workshops and schools, both for academia and to transfer knowledge between academia and companies such as I am interested in data science, data visualization and I collaborated in a healthcare Internet Of Things project for S2DS.

Ghazal Geshnizjani

Research Associate Professor, Department of Applied Mathematics
University of Waterloo

I grew up in the historic city of Esfahan, Iran. I was an introverted child in primary school and going to an overcrowded public school during the war, teachers would hardly notice me. When I was 11 which coincided with end of the war, a special school program for gifted students opened a branch in our city. To the surprise of my teachers, I was accepted into this enrichment program. I was not a stellar student among my new peers many of whom are now very good doctors and engineers back home. However, very soon I realized my strength was in solving math problems and analytical thinking. That gave me the initial boost and motive to pursue academia. My interest gradually turned to physics, where I found it to be the place where analytical thinking and nature meet each other. I obtained my BSc degree from Physics department at Sharif University, Tehran, Iran and then moved to the United States for graduate studies. I received my PhD in physics from Brown University at 2005, followed by postdoctoral positions at University of Wisconsin-Madison, Perimeter Institute and University of Buffalo. I am now a faculty member at Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Waterloo, Canada. I also have two little sons and my husband is also an astrophysicist. My area of research is theoretical cosmology and more specifically early universe cosmology.

Marina Cortês

My ambition has always been for a career where arts and science are combined. So after training in ballet and dancing professionally until the age of 25, I enrolled in undergraduate studies in Astronomy, in Holland.

Obtaining my Ph.D in Cosmology at the University of Sussex and University of Cape Town in 2008 I was subsequently awarded postdoctoral research fellowships from Portugal and South Africa. In 2011 I won the prestigious Marie Curie European Union Fellowship. I have also taken postdoctoral positions at Berkeley Lab in California, United States, at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, and at the University of Lisbon, in Portugal.

One of my topics of research is the early universe and currently am most passionate about understanding the origin of the arrows of time in cosmology. Together with renowned scientist and intellectual Professor Lee Smolin (Canada) I work on the answering the question “Why is time always moving forward and never backward?” In 2014 we won the Inaugural Buchalter Cosmology Prize (first place) for our work on the irreversibility of time in fundamental physics and cosmology.

Together with my husband and 20-month old son (Dawa), we share our time between the Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences (Portugal), the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh (UK), and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (Canada).

Chiamaka Okoli

I am Nigerian and grew up in Nigeria. I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in Physics and Astronomy.  Thereafter, I proceeded to the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) Trieste, Italy for a graduate diploma in High Energy Physics. I completed my Masters in Theoretical Physics at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada through the Perimeter Scholars international (PSI) Program. I am currently carrying out a PhD research programme in Dark Matter and Cosmology, specifically on the properties of dark matter haloes and neutrinos, at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada under the supervision of Drs Niayesh Afshordi and James Taylor. My research entails using different numerical approaches to explore our understanding of dark matter including the analysis of N-body simulations of particles. I am interested in fostering science in developing countries.

Renée Hložek

Assistant Professor of Astronomy, Dunlap Institute & Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Toronto


I was raised in Pretoria, South Africa and knew that I wanted to be able to solve puzzles when I grew up; Cosmology provides some of the most interesting puzzles there are! I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Pretoria, and then moved to Cape Town to do my Honours as part of the National Astrophysics and Space Science Program. I also did my Master’s degree at the University of Cape Town as part of the Square Kilometre Array Human Capital Development Program, asking and answering questions about cosmic transients. In 2008 I moved to Oxford in the United Kingdom to start studying for my DPhil (PhD) degree as a South African Rhodes Scholar.

In 2011 I joined the Department of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University as the Lyman Spitzer Junior Postdoctoral Fellow in Theoretical Astrophysics. I also joined the Princeton Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, where I learned about the interplay between science and the humanities.

I’ve always been passionate about science communication, and became a TED fellow in 2013, and then a Senior TED Fellow in 2014. Through working with the TED team I get to make cool videos and to think and write about the impact science can have on our daily lives. I was named one of the Mail and Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans for 2012, and one of Mzanzi’s 100 Trailblazers in 2016. I am also passionate about African science and how to improve the diversity of the international scientific community in general.

Nosiphiwo Zwane


I was born and raised in the small country of Swaziland and where I did my undergrad at the University of Swaziland. I did my Post Graduate Diploma at AIMS  in Cape Town, and my master’s degree through the Perimeter Scholars International Program. I am currently a PhD student at Perimeter Institute in conjunction with the University of Waterloo, Canada, working on causal set theory an approach to quantum gravity and models of dark energy.


Zaynah Dhunny 

I was born and raised in the little picturesque island of Mauritius, South Indian Ocean. Since a little girl, I thrived on Challenges. At 13 years of age, I fell in love with Physics which provided some of the most interesting challenges there are.  I did my undergraduate degree in Physics with Electronics, a Master in Philosophy and my PhD in Computational Physics at the University of Mauritius.  I currently hold a post-doctoral research position there in the Department of Physics. At present, I am actively working on several projects ranging from studies of climate change for the island of Mauritius to writing codes and developing algorithms which can do optimizations.

I have always been passionate about science communication and in 2016 was invited for the Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting in Physics where I met Nobel laureates, spent a week listening to their lectures while on the beautiful Lindau Island and having much discussion about women in science. When I am not working with my codes, I enjoy swimming and doing Zumba.

Chiara M. F. Mingarelli

Marie Curie Fellow in Theoretical Astrophysics, Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, Germany

I am an Italo-Canadian gravitational-wave astrophysicist, currently based at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, where I hold a Marie Curie Fellowship. This same fellowship funded a two-year research period, immediately following my PhD (2014; University of Birmingham, UK), at the California Institute of Technology and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2014-2016). My core research is focused on using Pulsar Timing Arrays to detect nanohertz gravitational waves from supermassive black hole binary systems, and their electromagnetic counterparts.

It is an honor to have been named APS “Woman Physicist of the Month” for November 2016, to have my thesis published in the Springer Thesis Series (2015), and to have been awarded grants from the Royal Astronomical Society and the UK Institute of Physics for both research and outreach, which I find very rewarding. I have written an invited guest article for Scientific American, and contribute to Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls.

Pratika Dayal

I was born on 24th January 1984 in the beautiful city of Chandigarh in India. My earliest career choice (at the age of 10) was Archaeology – but I (irreversibly) fell in love with Physics at the age of 14 and ended up doing “the Archaeology of the Universe”. By the time I was 20, I’d had the luxury of living in about 18 different cities in India and France due to dad’s job in the Indian Air Force. This wonderful brownian life has continued in my life as a scientist: after doing my PhD at the international School for Advanced Studies (SISSA, Trieste, Italy), I have held fellowships at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics (Potsdam, Germany), the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh (U.K.) and the Institute for Computational Cosmology (Durham, U.K.) before coming home to Groningen where I am an Assistant Professor and Rosalind Franklin Fellow at the Kapteyn Institute (Groningen University, The Netherlands).

My research focuses on answering some of the most pressing questions in modern astrophysics and cosmology such as: how did early galaxies form and evolve through time to form the amazing complexity of structure we see around us? What is the nature of the mysterious Dark Matter (DM) that makes up 80% of the matter content in the Universe? How can we use realistic astrophysical models to look for habitability in the Universe? In 2016, I was awarded a European Research Council Starting grant to support my research.

When not researching, I spend my time doing sports, hiking in the mountains and travelling to weird and wonderful places with my lovely husband Dr. Anupam Mazumdar.


Nebiha Shafi

Growing up in a small town in Ethiopia, I was always fascinated by the clear night sky. However, I did not always know that I wanted to become an astronomer. My first love was Physics. After completing my undergraduate studies in Physics at Addis Ababa University, I got the opportunity to do my Honours at the University of Cape Town under the National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme (NASSP), where I was formally introduced to astronomy. This is when I became more fascinated by the mysteries of the Universe and decided to continue with my Master’s. I went on to pursue my PhD at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg under the SKA Human Capital Development Program.  After completing my PhD in astrophysics, I was a Wits Postdoctoral Fellow for two years. Currently, I hold a research position joint between Wits and Hartbeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory. I am also an active member of the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.) international collaboration. My recent research focuses on thermal and non-thermal traces of feedback from active galaxies and their cosmological impact in the growth of cosmic structures.

Beside my research, I actively participate in public outreach programs promoting astronomy and science education. I am passionate about working on gender and education related issues to getting more women into science and engineering fields.


Antonia Bevan

I grew up in Bath, UK where I spent much of my childhood enjoying puzzles and maths problems. It was a natural choice to decide to do maths at university.  Midway through my degree at the University of Cambridge, however, I found I was hankering to apply the maths I was learning to something real. Astronomy, with all its mathematical challenges, captured my imagination and I ended up completing my degree in Astrophysics.  In 2012 I moved to UCL in London to do my PhD.  My thesis was submitted in 2015 and I then started a job at a consultancy in Cambridge.  Six months later I realised I really missed the problem solving and research that had first attracted me to academia, and so I decided to return to UCL. I currently hold a post-doctoral research position there.

My research investigates dust grains, the building blocks of everything in the universe from asteroids to planets to ourselves, which may form in large quantities in the aftermath of supernovae. I write and develop code that models how light interacts with dust in supernova remnants in order to investigate how much dust forms after these catastrophic explosions.

I’m always looking for outreach opportunities and ways of promoting science education and diversity within the field. I am particularly keen to tackle issues relating to gender and discrimination of all forms.  I currently live in Cambridge with my partner where I work at home two days a week.  When I don’t have my nose in my code, I enjoy cooking and learning the trapeze.


Emma Curtis Lake

I was brought up in the south of England, just on the edge of the beautiful South Downs.  I remember being fascinated with Space from as early as 7 years old (split evenly at that time with my other passion – dinosaurs!).  My love of space continued and I remember always quizzing my physics teachers about when we were going to learn about the Universe.  I love the feeling of insignificance it gives me when I look up and realise how minuscule the Earth is in the grand scale of things.  I stuck with Physics in school, when the emphasis was on other areas that held less interest for me, but my appreciation of these other areas grew when I started my Undergraduate degree.  After my undergrad I started my DPhil (PhD) in Oxford where I was working with a new spectrograph on the Subaru telescope – an 8m diameter telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.  I had the amazing opportunity to travel there to work with the instrument (crawling around inside it at one point) and then later to use it to observe galaxies at the peak of star formation activity in the Universe!  Nothing can beat the sun-rise at the top of Muana Kea, when you leave the mountain with data on your hard drive.  I’m now on my second Post-doc.  My first post-doc was in Edinburgh where I started to study galaxies in the early Universe with the Hubble Space Telescope.  I want to know how they formed their stars, how they’re growing, and whether our current observatories might be missing certain populations.   Now I am in Paris, working as part of an international team of scientists who are preparing for the next big space telescope to be launched just next year (fingers crossed!) – the James Webb Space Telescope.  With my collaborators, I’m developing statistical techniques to be able to study galaxies within the Epoch of Reionisation as populations of individuals.


 Maïté Dupuis

I did all my studies in France where I was born. During my PhD I worked on Quantum Gravity at the Ecole Normale Supérieure of Lyon (France) with one year at the University of Sydney (Australia) as a visiting student. After my PhD, I went to Germany for a two-year postdoc at the University of Erlangen. Then, I obtained a Banting postdoctoral fellowship to go to the University of Waterloo, Canada.

Currently I am still in Waterloo working at the Perimeter Institute as a PSI fellow. The PSI program is an intensive one-year master program in theoretical physics ( I am also adjunct associate professor in the Applied Mathematics department at the University of Waterloo. My research aims at better understanding the quantum gravity regime, using the Loop Quantum Gravity/Spinfoam approach.

I am also interested in teaching and taught at the university of Waterloo, the Perimeter Institute and AIMS Senegal

My husband is also a theoretical physicist and we have two daughters who are keeping us quite busy!


Zahra Fakhraai

I grew up in Tehran, Iran, but spent most of my childhood in the farmlands of Guilan, a province north of Iran by the Caspian Sea. As a child I was enchanted by biology, but absolutely loved solving math puzzles. I wanted to grow up to become a mathematician. In high-school an amazing Physics teacher opened my eyes to the world of physics. I became completely obsessed with physics and using my mathematical skills in solving physics problems. I articulated and solved a complicated optics problem in grade twelve for a physics symposium organized by the Iranian Physical Society, and competed for the best presentation prize. I was accused of plagiarism, because the problem seemed too advanced for me to have solved. However, one of the organizers who was an undergraduate physics student mentored me through this and encouraged me to continue my studies in Physics. She is now one of my best friends. I received my B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in physics from Sharif University of Technology in Iran before moving to the University of Waterloo in Canada to pursue my PhD studies in the field of soft-matter physics. My adventures in trying to understand properties of materials took me to the field of physical chemistry, where I can combine my knowledge in physics with the ability to make materials in chemistry. After two post-doctoral fellowships in Chemistry at the University of Toronto and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I joined the Chemistry Department at the University of Pennsylvania, where I am an associate professor. My group at Penn Chemistry explores structure and dynamics of materials at nanometer lengths scales and designs novel materials made of amorphous packings.


Sabine Stanley

I grew up in a small town in Canada and loved learning math and music. I did my undergraduate degree in Physics and Astronomy at the University of Toronto. When I started my studies, I thought I wanted to be a cosmologist, but as I learned more I realized that my passion was really for studying planets. I completed my Ph.D degree in Geophysics at Harvard University in 2004 having researched magnetic field generation in Uranus, Neptune and Mercury. I then moved to MIT for a postdoctoral position working with Dr Maria Zuber. I then spent 11 years at the University of Toronto as a Professor in the Department of Physics. In 2016 I moved to John Hopkins University and am now a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor in the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department and the Applied Physics Lab. My research involves trying to understand the interior structure and dynamics of planets and exoplanets, usually through investigations of magnetic fields, gravity and interior structure modelling.


Michelle van Heerden

Growing up I always had an interest in science, mostly inspired by my father who I would watch documentaries with about cosmology and who bought me a play microscope to investigate creepy crawlies that I gathered in our garden. When deciding what I wanted to do with my life I knew that it had to be something with meaning, however I was still not completely sure what that was. While enrolling at the University of the Free State, which is situated in central South Africa, a professor recommended a course in radiation sciences. Not completely sure of what I was getting myself into, I decided to venture down the path of a physics major, and since then have not looked back. After completing an honours degree in Medical Physics I went on to do a Master’s degree in the subject with funding from The Nuclear Technologies in Medicine and the Biosciences Initiative (NTeMBI) and The Vlaamse Interuniversitaire Raad (VLIR). My study involved dosimetry of small radiation fields, generally used in stereotactic radiotherapy techniques as well as a radiobiology component. I used the small radiation field to investigate radiation dose–volume effects in mouse intestinal tissue, by irradiating different volumes (small as well as large fields) of the jejunum to different radiation dose levels. Through this experiment I was able to prove that the small volumes of mouse intestine could handle higher radiation doses compared to the larger volumes. The success of this experiment has led further studies of a similar nature. I am currently a Medical Physics intern at Groote Schuur Hospital Oncology Department  in Cape Town with funding from Netcare who I shall work for once my internship is complete.


Steph Sallum

I grew up in the north-eastern United States in Rhode Island. The relatively dark skies got me excited about stargazing when I was a kid, but I didn’t think about doing astronomy professionally until I was an undergraduate at MIT. There I studied Planetary Astronomy and Physics, and then I went on to do a Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Arizona. I’m currently an NSF and Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Santa Cruz, where I use high contrast imaging techniques to do observational planet formation studies. When I’m not doing astronomy, I’m usually running or rock climbing.



Karín Menéndez-Delmestre

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, land of one of the largest radio telescopes in the world, I only figured out that I wanted to be an astronomer when I finished my undergraduate studies in Physics. As a teenager I was a passionate reader of Latin American Literature and I loved Physics; when the time came to decide which undergraduate degree to pursue at the University of Puerto Rico, I was truly torn. I confess that the solution to my dilemma was not the result of a profound inner search; I merely thought that I was better off starting in Physics and, if I hated it, I could switch to Literature. And here I am… still loving it! Through my undergrad years, I took every opportunity to participate in research internships in various subjects. On the one hand I was trying to figure out in what direction I wanted to take my Physics background (so many possibilities!) and on the other, these internships provided me with a summer salary. Oftentimes these internships involved traveling off to a different country — it was awesome! Halfway through my undergrad studies I transferred to McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where I did an undergrad Physics thesis with an inspiring female astronomer (yep, a superwoman: great researcher, group leader, fantastic teacher and a mom to 2 small children at the time). After that I spent a year doing astronomical research in Leiden (the Netherlands) and then moved to California (USA),where I did my PhD at Caltech and a postdoc at Carnegie Observatories. In those years I met a wonderful Brazilian astronomer, who is now my loving husband and father of our 2 year old Sofia. We are now both Professors in the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro and have a really nice group of young and enthusiastic students and postdocs… all eager to study the details on how galaxies form and evolve!


Claudia Mignone

I was born and raised in Salerno, in the south of Italy, and have been fascinated by the Universe since I can remember. At first I was curious about the space probes exploring our Solar System, then I learnt about the life of stars, galaxies and dark matter, and was hooked. I studied Astronomy at the University of Bologna, then moved to Germany where I obtained my PhD in cosmology at the University of Heidelberg. My research focused on statistical methods to extract information about the expansion of the Universe by combining different types of astronomical measurements.

As much as I loved cosmology and trying to understand the methods used in this discipline in excruciating detail, I was (and still am) also fascinated by science as a human endeavour and by the role scientists play in society, so I decided to engage full time in public communication of science. After a 6-month internship in science journalism at the European Southern Observatory in Garching near Munich, I moved to the Netherlands, where I’ve been working as a science writer for the European Space Agency (ESA) since 2010.

In my current role, I work with a team of scientists and communicators to engage the public with the exciting findings of ESA’s space science missions: Rosetta, Planck, Herschel, Gaia and LISA Pathfinder, among many others. I am passionate about telling and crafting stories that cover all aspects of the scientific endeavour, from the technical to the human side, and have been working with artists to research new approaches to scientific narration.


Rosalind Skelton

I grew up in the northern provinces of South Africa, moving down to Cape Town for my studies and then settling back there again after almost seven years abroad. I have always loved maths and science and looking back I think it’s not surprising that I became a scientist. I loved the night sky from an early age, was excited to learn about the Universe and it’s mysteries, and investigated careers in various scientific fields, including astrophysics, in high school. I did a degree in Physics and Applied Maths and decided to focus on Astronomy for my Masters, joining the National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme at the University of Cape Town. I did my PhD at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, where I studied galaxy formation and evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, and my first post-doc at Yale University in the USA before returning to South Africa to take up a post-doctoral fellowship at the South African Astronomical Observatory. Since mid-2015 I have been working on the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) astronomy team. My research tackles questions within the field of galaxy formation and evolution, looking at the statistics of merging galaxies, and how the environment that galaxies are in affects their growth.




Julia Even

I grew up in a small village in a rural area in Germany. I learned for the first time about atoms in my chemistry class when I was 12 years old. I got excited and wanted to get a better understanding of the building block of our world. Therefore, I decided to study chemistry in Marburg, Germany. I spent for an exchange semester to the University of Stellenbosch.

Later, I moved to Mainz, Germany, for my doctoral studies where I focused on superheavy elements. These elements can only be produced and studied in nuclear fusion reactions at heavy ion accelerator facilities. My research combined nuclear physics and chemistry.  During my PhD and in my first Postdoc, I was also member of the superheavy element research group at GSI, Darmstadt, Germany, one of the world-wide largest heavy ion accelerator facility. I also performed experiments at RIKEN, Japan. Later, I moved for a second Postdoc project to TRIUMF, Vancouver, Canada, where I focused on lighter exotic nuclei. Since 2016, I am an Assistant Professor and a Rosalind Franklin fellow in the nuclear and hadron physics group at KVI-CART at the University of Groningen. In my team, we produce, separate and study exotic nuclides with combinations of chemical and physical techniques. More information about me and my work can be found on my university profile page:


Satya Gontcho A Gontcho

I grew up near the French Alps and did my undergraduate studies at the University of Lyon – France. I customized the degree offered and ended up majoring in physics with a double minor in mathematics and mechanics. I am a two-time recipient of the Janus Fellowship which enabled me: (1) to work on Supernovae-based cosmology with the SNfactory group at the Lyon Institute for Nuclear Physics (IPNL) from 2008 to 2009 ; (2) to work on detector calibration for high energy physics with the ALICE/LHC group at IPNL in 2009. I then went to the Magisterium of fundamental physics in Orsay – France, during which time I was awarded a CERN Summer fellowship. The next year, I did my master thesis at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the context of the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS). This experience prompted my decision to attend the University Paris VI – France, where I specialized in cosmology for my MSc and then proceeded to return to the BOSS collaboration for my doctorate. By the time I started my PhD at the University of Barcelona, I had completed over 18 months of full-time research work at accredited institutions.

Problematics that fuel my curiosity are the origin and evolution of structures in the Universe as well as understanding the nature and behaviors of dark components through different epochs using observations. Recently, my work has focused on intergalactic medium based cosmology, i.e. exploiting quasar spectra for cosmology purposes.

I currently work as a research associate in the Physics & Astronomy department at University College London.


Joanna Barstow

I grew up in rural Leicestershire in the middle of the UK. I always had an interest in space, encouraged by my dad (an astronomer) and my high school physics teachers.

I went to Cambridge as an undergraduate to study Natural Sciences, before moving to Oxford in 2008 for a DPhil in Planetary Science. After completing my thesis on the Venusian clouds, I stayed on at Oxford for a further 4 years as a postdoctoral researcher in exoplanet atmospheres. I moved to UCL in 2016 to take up my current Royal Astronomical Society Research Fellowship, performing comparative studies of exoplanet atmospheres. I currently balance part time work with caring for my 1 year old daughter. Although I don’t get much time for it at the moment, I’m also a keen amateur singer and actress and have a lifelong love of musical theatre.




Remya Nair

Remya Nair I was born and brought up in New Delhi, India. I did my undergraduate studies in the University of Delhi and moved to Jamia Milia Islamia for my Masters and Ph.D. I later moved to the wonderful campus of IUCAA (Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics) in Pune for a year and currently I am in the beautiful city of Kyoto working in the department of physics at Kyoto University. Most of my research work focuses on understanding how to best extract physics out of observational data. During my Ph.D my key focus was on late time acceleration of the Universe and for the past few years, I have been working on gravitational wave data analysis as well as developing ideas on the intersection of gravitational waves and cosmology.





Vivian Miranda

Vivian Miranda was born in Brazil with name Vinicius Miranda. Being a scientist and a woman were two of my biggest dream in life. Nothing comes free in life, and I had to fight for both of them – but it was worth it in the end. I did my Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, and by the end of it, I finally decided it was time to begin my transition. It was a calculated move to minimize bias and my internal suffering. But being patient can be rewarding as well!

It was an entirely enjoyable experience to know that being transgender and being a respected scientist is not a contradiction! Right now I am the only transgender women that works in cosmology (that I am aware of) and I am eager to change that! My transition is not complete yet – I am in the middle – but so far so awesome!



Bindu Rani


Bindu Rani works on active galactic nuclei (AGN). Her research interests include high-energy astrophysical processes – understanding the physical conditions and processes that give rise to the formation of relativistic jets in AGN, accelerate particles to GeV/TeV energies, and responsible for the emission of gamma-rays.




Paniveni Udayashankar

Dr. Paniveni has a Ph.D in Astrophysics from Mangalore University with the research work carried out at  Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore between 2001 and 2005. She has a teaching experience of 33 years at the Post-graduate level, graduate level and undergraduate level and 15 Years of Research Experience.

Her thesis entitled ‘Convective flows on the solar atmosphere’ is published as a printed book with the title ‘Dynamics of Solar Supergranulation’ by LAP publishers, Germany in November 2010.

Dr.Paniveni held positions such as Professor, Head of the Department and In-charge Principal of reputed colleges before superannuation in October 2017 from her illustrious career.

Dr.Paniveni is guiding three students for Ph.D and has been a recipient of many honours and awards.


Michelle Ntampaka

I spent the first decade of my professional career as a teacher – middle school, high school, and college – before returning to school myself to finish my Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon University in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  My research focuses on using galaxy clusters to constrain cosmological models.  Using machine learning and statistical tools, I try to find complicated patterns in data to better understand and interpret observations.   My husband is Rwandese, and we travel to East Africa as frequently as we can manage it to visit friends and family.  We have also run training seminars in Rwanda, teaching high school science teachers how to develop lessons and deliver memorable lecture demonstrations.




Priya Hasan

I was fascinated by the stars and very early in life I knew that I wanted to study astronomy. I did my Integrated Masters in Physics specialising in Astrophysics from the Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia in 1996. I did my PhD in Astronomy at Osmania University, Hyderabad in 2004. My post-doctoral research was done in France and IUCAA, Pune.  I was awarded  the Women Scientist Award by Department of Science and Technology, New Delhi. I have presented my work in various conferences in India, Europe and US and in the United Nations, Vienna. My research interests are in observational astronomy, star formation, star clusters and galaxies.  At present I collaborate with groups in India, France, US and Egypt. I am a member of the International Science Driven Team of the Thirty Meter Telescope. I am actively involved in Olympiads, public outreach and science popularization programs for children and adults. At present I am an Asst Professor in Physics at the Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad. I am also a member of the Public Outreach and Education Committee, Astronomical Society of India.


Maayane Soumagnac

I am French-Israeli Postdoctoral Fellow in astrophysics at the Weizmann Institute of Science and an Ilan Ramon fellow. I was born and raised in Paris, and received my first telescope for my twelth birthday. Before completing my PhD at University College London, I graduated from the Ecole Normale Superieure (France), and took part in several research projects in the BIPAC institute at University of Oxford (UK), the Alcator C-mod project at MIT (Massachussetts, USA), and the seismology group at the Midi-Pyrenees Observatory (France). I then immigrated to Israel and joined the Observational Astrophysics team at the Weizmann Institute of Science. My main scientific interests are related to “transients” science. “Transients” are short and often violent deep sky astrophysical phenomena that happen on timescales of seconds to years – as opposed to the millions or billions of years of stellar and galactic evolution. Recently I have been interested in a class of Supernovae that explode in thick clouds of gas, which – in spite of masking the stellar explosion to us – may reveal to us some of its most important secrets.


Folashade  Afolabi


I was born in Nigeria and grew up in Lagos. I had my PhD from University of Ibadan, Nigeria and thereafter , I proceeded to Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa for postdoctoral fellowship.  I have passion for teaching Physics and I have developed and used different teaching methods and techniques to teach physics at secondary, tertiary level and distance learning Institute and conducted research at various levels.




Sangeeta Ujjwal

I was born in the national capital of India, Delhi but grew up in different parts of the country where my father’s transferable job took us. I was interested in science from my early childhood and got particularly interested in physics in the later years due to the continuous encouragement from my parents and inspiring mentoring by my teachers at school. By the end of my senior secondary school examination, it was clear to me that I want to pursue a career in physics. After completing my schooling, I came back to Delhi and took admission in the bachelor’s programme in physics at the University of Delhi and passed it with honours degree. Then I went on to pursue my masters in Physics from the Department of Physics and Astrophysics at the University of Delhi where my specialization was in astrophysics and general theory of relativity. During this period I discovered my hidden interest in teaching as I enjoyed explaining concepts of physics to undergraduates and high school students. To explore this interest further, I enrolled in and completed a bachelor’s degree in education from the Central Institute of Education (CIE), University of Delhi. I qualified the National Eligibility Test (NET) in Physics and got eligible to receive Junior and Senior Research Fellowships from Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to pursue my PhD. Fascinated by the development of computational physics and its application in understanding various phenomena in physics, with an added interest in chaos theory, I did my PhD studies in the area of nonlinear sciences from the Jawaharlal Nehru University. After completing my doctorate in 2016, I joined Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research (BIDR) at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev for my postdoctoral research. Currently, I am working in the Department of Solar Energy and Environmental Physics, BIDR as a Blaustein Centre for Scientific Cooperation (BCSC) postdoctoral fellow where I study vegetation dynamics in dryland ecosystems using dynamical systems tools and pattern formation theory. When I am not doing physics I like to travel and visit new places.


Evangelia Ntormousi

I studied Physics in Thessaloniki, Greece, where I come from, and I received my PhD from the LMU University of Munich in 2012, as part of the IMPRS program. Until 2017 I was a postdoc in CEA France, working in the field of star formation, in a group of both theorists and observers, an experience that has given me very useful insight on how to compare models to observational data.

Now I am a Marie-Curie fellow at the University of Crete, in Greece, where I study the evolution of galaxies together with their magnetic fields using numerical simulations. I am also part of the PASIPHAE collaboration, an international endeavour to map the galactic magnetic field in starlight polarization.



Laura Nuttall

I can’t claim that I always wanted to be an astrophysicist, but I’m certainly happy with the journey that has led me to this point so far. I grew up in Greater Manchester, UK and since an early age, maths was my thing. It wasn’t until I had my first physics teacher at the age of 15 though, that I realised that I wanted to study physics and just learn as much as I possibly could. I was certainly that person always asking questions! At Lancaster University, in a second year optics class, I happened upon gravitational waves, when a lecturer mentioned them in passing. This subject sounded completely amazing and bonkers, and I simply had to learn more. Luckily another lecturer agreed to do a masters project on gravitational waves with me and I haven’t looked back. I did my PhD at Cardiff University, working with LIGO. I then went on to complete postdocs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Syracuse, NY before returning to Cardiff as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions COFUND Fellow. In this time I have been privileged to work on the first detection of gravitational waves from the merger of binary neutron stars and black holes, discoveries which have completely changed how we think about astronomy. Having worked in the LIGO Scientific Collaboration for the last 9 years, I am starting a new gravitational-wave group, as a senior lecturer, at the University of Portsmouth with two dear colleagues and friends.


Nnenesi Kgabi

I was born went to school in Itsoseng, a small town (township) in the North West Province of South Africa. I earned my BSc Ed (Physics and Chemistry), BSc Honours (Physics), MSc (Physics) from the North-West University (former University of North West), South Africa, MA from Birmingham University, UK, and PhD in Environmental Science from North-West University (former Potchefstroom University) in South Africa.

I currently work in Namibia, at the Namibia University of Science and Technology in the position of UNESCO Chair on Sustainable Water Research for Climate Adaptation in Arid Environments, and Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.  I have completed research projects supported by The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), National Research Foundation (NRF), and the National Commission for Research Science and Technology (NCRST). My research interests include Atmospheric Water-Climate Interactions focusing on physical and chemical interactions in the troposphere, Air Quality – Pollutant source apportionment and Atmospheric toxic/trace metals, Environmental radioactivity (soil, water, air), and Isotope studies. I am a member of the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP), International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS), International Society for Development and Sustainability (ISDS), and Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD).


Yvelice Soraya Castillo Rosales

I was born in Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras, in Central America. I have loved Astronomy since I was a child, but I had difficulty in Mathematics until I reach the 10th year in the school. Then I started to understand Mathematics and Physics thanks to two excellent female teachers.  I liked Physics a lot but I decided to study Industrial Mechanical Engineering because there were not enough work positions in Physics then.  In 1998 a Master in Astronomy and Astrophysics was opened in the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH). I studied in this program in 2001-2005. In 2005 I started to work in the Central American Astronomical Observatory of Suyapa, than become the Space Sciences Faculty of the UNAH in 2009. In 2014 I went to Coimbra, Portugal, to study a Ph. D. in Physics, specialization in Astrophysics, thanks to the Erasmus-Mundus Amidila scholarship program for Latin America. I came back to Honduras in 2017. In January 2018, I was elected as the Head of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics of the Space Sciences Faculty of the UNAH.



Kathryn Grasha

I was raised in Western Colorado in the United States and from a young age, I had an instantiable curiosity about the world. I completed my undergraduate studies in astronomy at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I had a fabulous mentor during the course of my undergraduate career who helped prepare me for an academic life. I went to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for my graduate studies. After defending my dissertation, I moved to Australia with my partner and I currently hold my first postdoctoral position at the Australian National University in Canberra.

My research investigates star clusters as tracers of star formation. We can use these basic building blocks to study how star clusters interact with their environments and influence the formation and evolution of galaxies over cosmic time.

The lack of senior women to act as a mentor was especially challenging in my early career. Women have played an important and pivotal role in the development of myself as a scientist. I am passionate about gender and racial issues in the science fields and I actively participate in outreach programs for science education.


Arianna Di Cintio

Arianna Di Cintio, of Italian nationality, gained both her undergraduate and master degree in astrophysics at Sapienza University of Rome, in 2006 and 2009, both cum laude. She started her career as an experimental astrophysicist working with the gravitational waves interferometer LIGO and VIRGO. She carried on her master thesis at CALTECH in the USA, thesis that has been awarded with the 2010 prize “Best thesis in experimental astrophysics” by the Italian Accademia dei Lincei. She then decided to move into the field of theoretical astrophysics and joined the research group of computational cosmology at Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (UAM) in October 2010. Her PhD was devoted to the analysis of simulations of galaxies, with focus on the problematic aspects of the current cosmological model at galactic scales. She used several different sets of simulations to investigate the role of baryonic physics in shaping the density profiles of DM haloes, addressed the decade long cusp-core problem and introduced a mass-dependent density profile – DC14 – which has been increasingly used by the community to test our cosmological model at galactic scales. She ended her PhD in July 2014 at UAM cum laude and with “international PhD”  title. Her thesis has been awarded the UAM prize “extraordinary PHD thesis” in 2015. By the end of her PhD she had a total of 12 refereed works. Before the end of her PhD she had been offered the DARK independent fellowship at DARK cosmology centre. She then moved to Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics in Potsdam in January 2017 with a Schwarzschild fellowship, and received in the same year an Individual Marie Curie fellowship to carry on her research at IAC in Tenerife, where she moved in 2018.


Liesl Burger

I am South African and did my undergraduate degree at the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, South Africa. I had received a bursary from the CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research), so on graduation joined the CSIR for a work-back period of 3 years. By the end of this period I was married to a fellow scientist, and busy with commercial laser application development at the National Laser Centre.

By 2006 my children were becoming more independent, and I registered for an MSc in laser physics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and graduated cum laude in 2009 with a dissertation entitled “Transverse Modes in Porro Prism Resonators”. I then registered for a PhD at the University of Stellenbosch, which I obtained in 2016 with a thesis entitled “Novel implementation of a phase-only spatial light modulator for laser beam shaping”.

In 2016 I joined NMISA, the National Metrology Institute of South Africa, where I head the Photometry and Radiometry section.

I believe that women face a different set of challenges in their careers, and I hope to share some of the wisdom accumulated over my 30-odd year career in physics.


 Aletta Karsten

My research focused mainly on laser development and the application of lasers in various fields. I developed the lasers (TEA CO2 lasers) and a laser system to detect gasses over a distance. This project was successfully demonstrated to the client. For my PhD, I did research on the interaction of laser light with human tissue and developed a computer model to simulate the interaction. In the process we developed a probe to measure the absorption and scattering properties of human skin in vivo. I was part of the team that developed the optical part to deliver a 5 kW laser beam over a distance of 2 m for 3D Ti printing.

Currently I am the program manager for the research and development of instrumentation that will be used in realising the SI units in future.


Siphephile Ncube

I am a diligent, hardworking and goal driven lady who readily accepts a challenge as it presents an opportunity for me to learn as well as realize my full potential.  As a young scientist with an excellent academic background and exceptional experimental skills in Physics, I will definitely be of value add to the scientific community.  However as I work towards my vision and goal of being an influential academic researcher, I find it worthwhile to help others comprehend their capabilities.

Paola Andreani

Paolo has a Bachelor and Master’s degree in Physics at the University of Rome, Italy. Her PhD was half done at IAP in Paris and half in Rome. ESA (European Space Agency), CNR (Italian National Research Council), MIUR (Italian Ministry of Research) and Alexander von Humboldt (Germany) Fellows. Researcher at the University of Padua (Italy), Associate Astronomer at INAF-Padova/Trieste (Italy), ALMA Regionale Centre Head at ESO, and European ALMA Regional Centre Manager for the ALMA project. Since 2006 at ESO.


My research interests are Observational Cosmology, Galaxy evolution, Physics of the interstellar medium.

Helene Courtois

I grew up in the French Alps and country side, evidently I was watching the sky every night and by understanding how vast is our place I developed a taste for traveling on Earth and for mapping the Universe. After Physics studies at Universities in France and Canada, I did a French-Australian PhD, then accepted a tenure at Max Planck in Germany and finally chose a university professor career at University of Lyon in France where I developed my own scientific field ‘cosmography’. I like traveling to exchange new research results, new ideas with my colleagues, in particular in Hawaii, Green Bank, Cape Town, Sydney. I am now Vice-President for international relations of this scientific university in Lyon of 50,000 students, living up to my passions : exploring the universe, understanding nature laws, sharing knowledge with the larger public. I think that one needs to be focused, strongly self-motivated and self-confident to succeed in this job.


Shazrene Mohamed

I am a Zimbabwean born computational stellar astrophysicist working at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) and the University of Cape Town.I grew up in Bulawayo (Zimbabwe’s second largest city) and loved maths and science. After high school I completed my undergraduate studies in Astronomy, Astrophysics and Mathematics at Harvard University, USA and then my PhD in Astrophysics at Oxford University, UK. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the Argelander Institute for Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, I moved to Cape Town, South Africa.

My research primarily focuses on supercomputer simulations of evolved stars (stars at the end of their lives) to investigate how they impact and interact with their surroundings and with each other, particularly, how mass is transferred from one star to another. These systems are important as they are related to a wide range of interesting phenomena, e.g., novae and supernovae explosions, symbiotic and X-ray binaries, and chemically peculiar stars.

Akaxia d Cruz

I am currently a second year Ph.D. student in the department of physics at The University of Washington in Seattle Washington. I am a United States National Science Foundation research fellow and I spend my days simulating galaxies in order to probe the nature of dark matter. I am particularly interested in how self-interacting dark matter effects galaxies in dense regions such as galaxy clusters. As a women of colour getting to this point was not easy. After receiving my bachelor’s degree in 2014 I spent two years outside of academia, first conducting research at Lawrence

Berkeley National Laboratory in order to strengthen my graduate school applications. After this I spent a year working for Girl’s Inc. of Metro Denver, where I helped develop and launch a five year STEM program designed to mitigate attrition of historically underrepresented girls from the STEM fields. Moving back to physics, a predominately white-male field, has been quite an adjustment. I continue to struggle with being wholly myself and with being taken seriously as a physicist. I would like to help other women in similar situations to make it over all of the large hurtles academia throws at us.


From a young age I had a proclivity for mathematics, when I was in high school I realized that math could be used to explore/explain the way the universe works. I am very curious by nature and I like to solve problems, so naturally as soon I discovered physics, I was hooked. I pursued physics and math in undergrad and I am now getting my Ph.D. in physics at The University of Washington. Once I obtain my Ph.D. I would like to work at a national laboratory and do research full time. Alongside my research it is important to me that I have the opportunity to fight for diversity and inclusion in physics and STEM as a whole.


I very much understand how confusing and hard it is to be an undergraduate/post undergraduate. I would like to help young women navigate through academia during these formative years. I have had the opportunity to mentor young, middle school aged girls, and to help build interest in STEM. Now that I feel more stable in my career as a physicist

I would like to help undergraduate women understand that they don’t have to fit into the mould set up by the STEM fields. I want to help nurture their excitement for STEM, as well as be someone they feel safe and comfortable talking to. I want to do anything that I can to help diminish the gender gap and help other young women find confidence in being scientists/mathematicians/computer scientists and engineers.