Farewell to Dr. Chiamaka Okoli

Friday, June 21, 2019

Chiamaka OkoliIt is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of Dr. Chiamaka Okoli, a brilliant astrophysicist and former PhD student at our department. Dr. Okoli successfully defended her PhD with the title “Dark Matter and Neutrinos in the Foggy universe” last December. Her PhD convocation at the University of Waterloo was scheduled for last week, on June 13th. However, that was not meant to be. Her life was cut short on June 6th in McMaster hospital in Hamilton.

Dr. Okoli first came to Waterloo in Fall 2012, when she joined the then-recently-established Perimeter Scholar International program. She had just finished the diploma program at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, and was eager to work more on cosmological structure formation. She started working with Prof. Niayesh Afshordi on understanding the profiles of dark matter haloes, establishing a novel paradigm to predict their concentration based on energy conservation. This led to her first paper.

In Winter 2014, Dr. Okoli started her PhD program at the University of Waterloo, working Prof. Afshordi and Prof. James Taylor. She went on to publish further studies on novel effects of neutrinos on cosmological structures, as well as predictions for annihilation of dark matter particles into gamma rays. In her final years, while her health permitted, she was actively working on understanding the thermodynamics of galaxy groups and dark matter simulations with cosmic neutrinos.

In addition to her research, Chiamaka was an active mentor at the Supernova Foundation, which provides mentoring for female undergraduate physics students in developing countries around the world.

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