Pakistan-born scientist to head MIT School of Science
August 19 2020 11:53 AM
Dr Nergis Mavalvala
Dr Nergis Mavalvala


Pakistan born, astrophysicist Dr Nergis Mavalvala, has been named the new dean of Massachusetts Institute of Technology-MIT’s School of Science, from September.

The Karachi-born Dr Mavalvala will succeed Michael Sipser, who will return to the faculty as the Donner Professor of Mathematics, after six years of service, informed MIT.

“We’re in this moment where enormous changes are afoot,” Mavalvala says while talking about her new role in the present scenario. “We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and economic challenge, and we’re also in a moment, at least in US history, where the imperative for racial and social justice is really strong.

“As someone in a leadership position, that means you have opportunities to make an important and hopefully lasting impact,” she added.

Professor Mavalvala was born to a Parsi family. She did her initial schooling from Convent of Jesus and Mary before leaving for the US where she graduated with a BA in physics and astronomy from Wellesley College in 1990.

She then did her PhD in physics in 1997 from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology-MIT.

Back in 2016, Dr Mavalvala was among the team of scientists who verified Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity.

Mavalvala, the then associate department head of physics at MIT, along with her team detected ripples in gravitational waves, hypothesised by the legendary physicist Albert Einstein a hundred years ago.

The discovery was hailed as a scientific milestone that was made possible by the giant laser detectors in the US, located in Louisiana and Washington State, completing the quest to confirm the existence of these waves.

The scientist has received several honours and awards in her career including the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, as part of the LIGO team, awarded to her in 2015.

In 2017, she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. She is also the first recipient of the Lahore Technology Award, given by the Information Technology University, a public university in Pakistan.

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