Dr. Nergis Mavalvala Helped Detect The First Gravitational Wave

Wednesday, December 6, 2023
by Swapna Krishna

Her work doesn’t stop there…

“Where did all this come from? How did it all get started?”

These are the questions that Dr. Nergis Mavalvala asks about the universe. It’s not the meaning-of-life stuff in the traditional sense, but more of how everything around us came to be. These are the questions we all have, but for Dr. Mavalvala, finding the answers is her life’s work. It’s why she became a physicist.

“If we want to answer the question of how our universe came to be and why we see the universe we do today, we have to understand things like black holes,” she says. “They’re important building blocks of the universe. If you want a complete picture of the world around us, then you need to use every messenger that nature provides. Gravitational waves are one such messenger, as is light.”

As the dean of MIT’s School of Science, Dr. Mavalvala’s administrative responsibilities are considerable, but she enjoys being a part of academia. It’s young people who are the key for her. “There’s an idea that the greatest scientific discoveries are made by wiry silver-haired scientists. But it’s the work of young people that enables all of these scientific discoveries.” She wants students to know that they shouldn’t be afraid to jump in.

“I think one of the joys of being at a university, as opposed to being in any other setting, is teaching” she muses. “I get access to students because I run an active research group, but I do miss teaching.”

Read more