Nergis Mavalvala is the Curtis and Kathleen Marble Professor of Astrophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Associate Head of the Department of Physics.
She is a physicist whose research focuses on the detection of gravitational waves from violent events in the cosmos that warp and ripple the fabric of spacetime. She is a leading figure in the scientific team that in early 2016 announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes using the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors. This breakthrough and subsequent observations have ushered in a new era of astrophysics, opening a window into the violent and warped universe not visible with light.
In addition to her work on developing technologies for gravitational wave detectors since her graduate student years in the 1990s, Mavalvala has also conducted pioneering experiments to generate exotic quantum states of light and to optically cool and trap mirrors to enable observation of quantum effects that are usually manifested in the microscopic world in human-scale objects.
She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a MacArthur Fellowship in 2010 and election to the National Academy of Sciences in 2017. Mavalvala earned a BA in physics and astronomy from Wellesley College and a PhD in physics from MIT.
The Evnin Lectures were established with a gift from Anthony B. Evnin '62 to promote a broader and deeper understanding of the critical roles of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in all aspects of human endeavor. Since 1991, the Council on Science and Technology has invited luminaries in the fields of STEM and science communication to explore topics of interest to a broad audience. These lectures are free and open to the public.