How Captain Okoli got his name

About two years ago, I dreamt up a character called Captain Okoli. He features in the imaginary steampunk novel from which I drew snippets to begin the chapters of my otherwise nonfiction book. Captain Okoli is innovative, daring, and kind; he helps the imaginary novel’s heroine, Audrey, on her globe-spanning quest. 

Captain Okoli inherited his name from Chiamaka Okoli, who was a classmate and roommate of mine while we pursued our master’s degrees at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Unfortunately, an illness took Chiamaka’s life shortly after she completed her PhD. Captain Okoli is my tribute to her memory, but my book lacked the space for an explanation of who Chiamaka was or how Captain Okoli got his name. The Perimeter Institute offered a platform in its publication Inside the Perimeter. You can find the article—a story about an innovative, daring, and kind woman—here.

This entry was posted in Reflections by Nicole Yunger Halpern. Bookmark the permalink.

About Nicole Yunger Halpern

I’m a theoretical physicist at the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science in Maryland. My research group re-envisions 19th-century thermodynamics for the 21st century, using the mathematical toolkit of quantum information theory. We then apply quantum thermodynamics as a lens through which to view the rest of science. I call this research “quantum steampunk,” after the steampunk genre of art and literature that juxtaposes Victorian settings (à la thermodynamics) with futuristic technologies (à la quantum information). For more information, check out my upcoming book Quantum Steampunk: The Physics of Yesterday’s Tomorrow. I earned my PhD at Caltech under John Preskill’s auspices; one of my life goals is to be the subject of one of his famous (if not Pullitzer-worthy) poems. Follow me on Twitter @nicoleyh11.

2 thoughts on “How Captain Okoli got his name

  1. Thanks for writing this to honor the memory of your classmate, Chiamaka. She was also my coursemate at ICTP in Trieste Italy but we lost contact with each other not quite long afterward. Sadly, I only got to know about her passing from your blog. Being from Nigeria myself, after ICTP I proceeded to Australia to obtain my PhD, working in condensed matter physics of anyons. I attest that Chiamaka was a very friendly lady who was also hopeful, bold, and hardworking. May the Lord be with the family that she left behind, especially her son. BTW, I’m a reader of your blog. You write very interesting blogs.

  2. Thanks for writing this to honor the memory of your classmate, Chiamaka. She was also my coursemate at ICTP in Trieste Italy but we lost contact with each other not quite long afterward. Sadly, I only got to know about her passing from your blog. Being from Nigeria myself, after ICTP I proceeded to Australia to obtain my PhD, working in condensed matter physics of anyons. I attest that Chiamaka was a very friendly lady who was also hopeful, bold, and hardworking. May the Lord be with the family that she left behind, especially her son. BTW, I’m a reader of your blog. You write very interesting blogs. Thanks!

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