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Tonia Venters has had a keen interest in science from a young age. She majored in astrophysics at Rice University as an undergraduate and then enrolled in the University of Chicago’s Astronomy & Astrophysics program to earn an advanced degree. In 2009, the newly minted doctor became the first Black woman to earn a PhD in that department.


After her time as a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow (2009-2011) at the Goddard Space Flight Center, she transitioned to NASA’s Astroparticle Physics Laboratory in 2011 and continues her work there today as a civil servant scientist. Her research supports current and upcoming NASA missions and projects, such as Fermi-LAT, NuSTAR, and EUSO-SPB2, as well as future multimessenger mission concepts. She currently serves as the Mission Scientist for NASA’s upcoming COSI project.


Venters specializes in the acceleration, propagation, and interactions of high-energy particles in a variety of astrophysical systems. She models gamma-ray and neutrino emissions from active galactic nuclei and star-forming galaxies, connecting observations from current missions to make predictions about future missions. She has also studied the extragalactic gamma-ray background, modeling the cosmic events that contribute to it.


She is a member of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), American Physical Society (APS), and the National Society of Black Physicists and has served on the AAS Code of Ethics Committee, APS Division of Astrophysics Executive Committee, NASA Goddard Association of Postdoctoral Scholars, and NASA’s Sciences and Exploration Directorate Director's Committee.

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First Black woman to earn a PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics at UChicago ('09), trailblazer in multi-messenger astrophysics at NASA-GSFC

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Photo Source: NASA/GSFC

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