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Angela V. Olinto holds many “firsts” at the University of Chicago. She joined the University faculty in 1996 and was the first woman to earn tenure in UChicago’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. She then became the first woman to serve as the department’s chair, a role she held from 2003 to 2006 and again from 2012 to 2017. In 2018, she was named dean of the Physical Sciences Division, the first woman to hold this position, and was reappointed in 2023. In 2024, she became provost of Columbia University.


A leading scholar in astroparticle physics and cosmology, her work has contributed to our understanding of the structure of neutron stars, inflationary theory, cosmic magnetic fields, the nature of dark matter, and the origin of the universe’s highest-energy particles: cosmic rays, gamma-rays, and neutrinos. She serves as principal investigator of NASA’s POEMMA (Probe Of Extreme Multi-Messenger Astrophysics) space mission and EUSO (Extreme Universe Space Observatory) super pressure balloon mission and was a leading member of the Pierre Auger Observatory.


Olinto is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences. She received the Chaire d’Excellence Award of the French Agence Nationale de Recherche in 2006. She has served as a trustee of the Aspen Center for Physics and on many advisory committees for the National Academy of Sciences, Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and NASA. Olinto was born in Boston in 1961 and raised in Rio de Janeiro. She received her bachelor’s degree from Pontificia Universidade Catolica and her doctoral degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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First woman department chair and dean in the PSD, leading astrophysicist celebrated for her work on the origins of the universe and its highest-energy particles

Headshot of Angela Olinto

Photo Source: Lincoln Road

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