PhD Candidate in Atmospheric and Space Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Onyinye Nwankwo is an accomplished scientist in the field of upper atmospheric and space sciences, currently pursuing her PhD in Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Physics and Industrial Physics at Nnamdi Azikiwe University in her home country of Nigeria before obtaining a Master’s degree in Space Geophysics from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) in Brazil and a second Master of Science in Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering from the University of Michigan. During her undergraduate studies, Onyinye served as an industrial trainee “Radio Signal Officer” at the Nigeria Port Authority in Lagos State, where her skills in maintaining radio signals and signal processing were key to ensuring efficient communication and navigation services. She went on to become a Scientific Officer with the Center for Atmospheric Research, National Space Research and Development Agency (CAR-NASRDA) in Anyibga, Kogi State, Nigeria, where she showcased her expertise in data processing, management and the operation of cutting-edge imaging technology. In this role, Onyinye provided key raw data handling for the All-Sky Airglow Imager and Fabry Perot Interferometer and made significant contributions to the understanding of atmospheric phenomena, which also bolstered Nigeria’s stature in space and atmospheric research. Before joining CAR-NASRDA, she worked as a Graduate Assistant in the Department of Physics at Michael Okpara University of Agriculture in Umudike, Nigeria, where she handled a range of responsibilities for the department, including course instruction, design and implementation of research methodologies, contributions to lab experiments and management of administrative tasks.
While pursuing her PhD at the University of Michigan, Onyinye has played a pivotal role in advancing the understanding of the variability in the ionosphere-thermosphere system and how they influence radio wave transmission. She has shed new light on the complex electrodynamics and interactions within this upper atmospheric layer. Onyinye’s findings have expanded general knowledge of the ionosphere and have paved the way for advancements in space weather prediction, satellite communications and other critical applications. Her recent work was conducted at the Institute for Space-Earth Environment Research (ISEE) at Nagoya University in Japan, adding a more global perspective and new expertise to her research efforts as well. Onyinye has served as a leader throughout her academic career, taking on roles such as Vice President and Treasurer for Graduate Rackham International (GRIN), Treasurer for the Graduate Society of Black Engineers and Scientists (GSBES), and External Relations Officer for the Graduate Society of Women Engineers (GradSWE). As Vice President of GRIN, she plays a vital role in fostering an inclusive environment for international students at the University of Michigan. Onyinye was recognized as the Scientist of the Month in May 2022 by the African Geophysical Society, and she has also received multiple awards for her research, including the Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics Visiting Scholar Award, the Space Weather with Quantified Uncertainties (SWQU) Travel Fellowship, and the Vela Fellowship for Space Weather Summer School at the Lost Alamos National Laboratory.
Outside of working and study hours, Onyinye serves as a mentor for the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, guiding high school students interested in upper atmospheric and space science research. She also volunteers with the University of Michigan’s Xplore Engineering program, which provides hands-on experience in engineering to children in grades 4 through 7. Onyinye is an active participant in the African Geophysical Society and the American Geophysical Union, helping to foster collaboration, knowledge exchange, and collective progress in the field. She has also given multiple presentations to other students in her fields of research, most notably a TED-style talk titled “Breaking Barriers: Evolution in Thoughts about Space Sciences” during the 2023 Dr. Martin Luther King Symposium organized by the University of Michigan’s Rackham Graduate School.