Angela Villela Olinto

The University of Chicago


Primary Section: 13, Physics
Secondary Section: 12, Astronomy
Membership Type: Member (elected 2021)

Biosketch

Angela Villela Olinto is an astrophysicist recognized for her work in astroparticle physics. She is known for her work on understanding the origin of high-energy cosmic rays, gamma rays, and neutrinos, and her study of the structure of neutron stars, inflationary theory, cosmic magnetic fields, and the nature of dark matter. Olinto was born in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia in Brazil. She graduated from Pontificia Universidade Catolica in physics in 1981 and received her Ph.D. in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1987. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Fermi National Laboratory and joined the University of Chicago in 1990. She is currently the Albert A. Michelson Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, which she chaired for 8 years. In 2018, she became the dean of the Physical Sciences Division at the University of Chicago. In 2021 she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Research Interests

Olinto works on theory and experiments in astroparticle physics. Her contributions include the study of the structure of neutron stars, inflationary theory, the origin and evolution of cosmic magnetic fields, the nature of dark matter, and the origin of the highest energy cosmic particles: cosmic rays, gamma-rays, and neutrinos. Olinto emerged as a leader of the science behind the 3,000 km2 Pierre Auger Observatory in Malargue, Argentina, built and operated by an international collaboration. Her group pioneered in depth studies of the physics and astrophysics of ultra-high energy cosmic rays (UHECRs) including the propagation and neutrino production of UHE nuclei and acceleration models based on newborn pulsars. Olinto is the principal investigator of EUSO-SPB (Extreme Universe Space Observatory on a Super Pressure Balloon), a series of NASA balloon missions. EUSO-SPB1 flew in April 2017 and EUSO-SPB2 is planned for a 2023 flight. EUSO- SPB2 will combine the fluorescence technique used in EUSO-SPB1 with a novel Cherenkov detector designed to search for up-going tau showers produced by astrophysical tau neutrinos. Starting in 2017, Olinto served as principal investigator for POEMMA (Probe of Extreme Multi-Messenger Astrophysics), leading the conceptual design for the NASA space mission.

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