To Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, who joined UNH as an assistant professor of physics in January 2019, boundaries are for breaking.
The first black woman to hold a faculty position in theoretical cosmology and one of 15 black women recognized by Essence Magazine for “paving the way in STEM,” her scholarship breaks down intellectual, disciplinary and even departmental barriers.
As a cosmologist, Prescod-Weinstein studies dark matter, work that’s at the intersection of physics and astronomy. “I’m either thinking about things that are very small, like particles, or things that are very, very large, like galaxies, or clusters of galaxies,” she says.
And while the physics department will be her primary academic home, she’s also on the core faculty in the women’s studies program, a role that unites her passions for physics and activism. “I’m a natural counter, and that’s not limited to counting particles and galaxies,” she says. “I’m also counting people who are in the room with me and thinking about why I’m the only black woman there, and how does that shape what we know about physics? I’m interested in enhancing the participation of minoritized people in physics.”
Prescod-Weinstein’s expansive intellectual universe contains more than just physics and astronomy, women’s studies and activism. Author of a forthcoming book called The Disordered Cosmos: From Dark Matter to Black Lives Matter (Bold Type Books, 2021), she writes about science and social justice for mainstream media, boasts 46,000 followers on Twitter — and is a certified Pilates instructor.
Prescod-Weinstein praises UNH and the physics department for embracing her multitude of interests. “One of the reasons I’m so excited about UNH is that I don’t feel I need to pretend to be someone else,” she says. “People here are very proactively welcoming.”