Born and FamilyDr Mavalvala, 47, was born to a Parsi family in Karachi where she did her primary schooling.Among the scientists is Dr. Nergis Mavalvala, who was migrated to the United States of America as a teenager. She completed her doctorate in Physics from the MIT, where she is currently the Curtis and Kathleen Marble Professor of Astrophysics, and Associate Department Head of Physics.
Practical SkillsHer practical skills stood her in good stead in 1991, when she was scouting for a research group to join after her first year as a graduate student at MIT. Her adviser was moving to Chicago and Mavalvala had decided not to follow him, so she needed a new adviser. She met Rainer Weiss, who worked down the hallway. “What do you know?” Weiss asked her. She began to list the classes she had taken at the institute—but the renowned experimentalist interrupted with, “What do you know how to do?” Mavalvala ticked off her practical skills and accomplishments: machining, electronic circuitry, building a laser. Weiss took her on right away.Mavalvala says that although it may not be immediately apparent, she is a product of good mentoring.
Chemistry TeacherFrom the chemistry teacher in Pakistan who let her play with reagents in the lab after school to the head of the physics department at MIT, who supported her work when she joined the faculty in 2002, she has encountered several encouraging people on her journey.
MITHer work on gravitational waves was part of her research in graduate school at MIT, where she now is an associate department head of Physics. She credits her success to a host of mentors who’ve helped her get to where she is now with a special mention going out to the chemistry teacher in Pakistan who let her play with reagents in the lab after school.
AwardShe also received the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Award in 2010.
Research InterestsNergis Mavalvala, Marble Professor of Astrophysics at MIT and a 2010 recipient of a MacArthur “genius” award, is a physicist whose research focuses on the detection of gravitational waves and quantum measurement science. She is a longtime member of the scientific team that announced in 2016 the first direct detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO). The gravitational waves that LIGO detected are ripples in the spacetime fabric caused by the motion of compact, massive astrophysical objects such as black holes and neutron stars. Since the nature of gravitation is inherently different from electromagnetism, gravitational wave astrophysics provides a radically different window into the universe.
- Measurement of radiation-pressure-induced optomechanical dynamics in a suspended Fabry-Perot cavity," T. Corbitt, D. Ottaway, E. Innerhofer, J. Pelc, and N. Mavalvala, Phys. Rev. A 74, 021802 (2006).
- A squeezed state source using radiation pressure induced rigidity," T. Corbitt, Y. Chen, F. Khalili, D. Ottaway, S. Vyatchanin, S. Whitcomb, and N. Mavalvala, Phys. Rev. A 73, 023801 (2006).
- Lock acquisition of a gravitational wave interferometer," M. Evans, N. Mavalvala, P. Fritschel, R. Bork, B. Bhawal, R. Gustafson, W. Kells, M. Landry, D. Sigg, R. Weiss, S. Whitcomb, H. Yamamoto, accepted for publication in Opt. Lett. (2002).
- Readout and control of a power-recycled gravitational-wave antenna," P. Fritschel, R. Bork, G. González, N. Mavalvala, D. Ouimette, H. Rong, D. Sigg, and M. Zucker, Appl. Opt. 40, 4988 (2001).
- High gain power-recycling of a Fabry-Perot Michelson interferometer for a gravitational wave antenna," S. Sato, M. Ohashi, M-K. Fujimoto, K. Waseda, S. Miyoki, N. Mavalvala, and H. Yamamoto, Appl. Opt. 39, 4616 (2000).
- Principles of calculating the dynamical response of misaligned complex resonant optical interferometers," D. Sigg and N. Mavalvala, J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 17, 1642 (2000).
- Determination and optimization of mode matching into optical cavities using heterodyne detection," G. Mueller, Q. Shu, R. Adhikari, D. Tanner, D. Reitze, D. Sigg, N. Mavalvala and J. Camp, Opt. Lett. 25, 266 (2000).
- Experimental test of an alignment sensing scheme for a gravitational-wave interferometer," N. Mavalvala, D. Sigg and D. Shoemaker, Appl. Opt. 37, 7906 (1998).
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