I proudly hail from the east Los Angeles neighborhood of El Sereno. The 63rd Black American woman* to earn a Ph.D. in physics, I am a descendant of Afro-Caribbean and Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants. 


I left East L.A. to attend Harvard College where I earned a bachelors in Physics and Astronomy and Astrophysics in 2003. After passing the PhD preliminary exam and earning a Masters in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz (2005), I changed research directions and ultimately moved to the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics to work with Dr. Lee Smolin in 2006. I completed my doctoral dissertation, “Cosmic Acceleration as Quantum Gravity Phenomenology,” at the Perimeter Institute and theUniversity of Waterloo under the joint direction of Dr. Smolin and Professor Niayesh Afshordi in September 2010.

Professional History

As of March 1, 2016, I hold a Research Associate position in the Department of Physics at the University of Washington. I collaborate with members of the Dark Universe Science Center.

Previously, I held a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I was jointly appointed to the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and the Department of Physics. My affiliation in the department was as a member of Professor Alan Guth‘s research group in the Center for Theoretical PhysicsProfessor Ed Bertschinger was my official host and adviser as an MLK as well as a collaborator.

My first postdoc was a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellowship in the Observational Cosmology Lab at Goddard Space Flight Center, where I was involved with studying the capacity for weak lensing on the WFIRST experiment.

*This data is collected by Dr. Jami Valentine and Ms. Jessica Tucker, and the numbers are regularly adjusted to reflect information that we did not have before. They also vary depending on whether graduates of astronomy, materials science, medical physics, and biophysics programs -- which are all academically different from physics programs -- are included in the count or not.

Presumption should never make us neglect that which appears easy to us, nor despair make us lose courage at the sight of difficulties.
— Benjamin Banneker