A proud Pakistani American appointed first female dean at the World’s No 1 University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( MIT)
Nergis Mavalvala, a longtime physicist of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the dean of sciences at MIT, recently discussed her journey into the field of gravitational waves and her work in macroscopic quantum mechanics. Mavalvala was initially discouraged by fellow graduate students at MIT from trying to observe gravitational waves, but she persisted and became an early participant in LIGO. Her dedication paid off when LIGO announced its first detection of ripples of spacetime set off by two distant, colliding black holes in 2016.
Since then, Mavalvala’s scientific focus has been on macroscopic quantum mechanics and how it can manifest on large scales. She has been thinking about questions such as at what size scale quantum mechanics breaks down and whether it’s possible to prepare large objects in a quantum state. Mavalvala’s work on LIGO’s mirrors, which are 40-kilogram objects, has enabled the cooling of the mirrors to nearly their quantum ground state, allowing for the observation of quantum fluctuations.
Mavalvala was also recognized for her contributions to science with a MacArthur “genius grant” Fellowship in 2010 and as LGBTQ scientist of the year in 2014 by the professional society Out to Innovate. In 2020, Mavalvala became the first woman and openly queer person to hold the position of dean of sciences at MIT.
As dean, Mavalvala’s priorities include maintaining the excellence of the school of science at MIT and promoting cross-disciplinary partnerships to solve big problems like climate change and health. She is also focused on ensuring that everyone in the academic community thrives and is included and addressing the social and ethical responsibilities of scientists regarding the impacts of their inventions.
In addition to her scientific work, Mavalvala has also been an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the sciences. She has been a strong supporter of creating a community for LGBTQ scientists and promoting the inclusion of underrepresented groups in science.
Mavalvala emphasized the importance of addressing the social and ethical responsibilities of scientists in regards to their inventions. She believes that this topic should be deeply embedded in the core of scientific practice and taught to students and researchers.
Throughout her career, Mavalvala has demonstrated a passion for pushing the boundaries of scientific discovery and promoting a more inclusive and socially responsible scientific community. Her contributions to the field of gravitational waves and macroscopic quantum mechanics have been groundbreaking, and her leadership as the dean of sciences at MIT promises to bring important changes to the world of science and academia.
Mavalvala has set her priorities on maintaining and improving the excellence of the school while also promoting cross-disciplinary partnerships to solve big problems such as climate change, health, and consciousness. Additionally, she is committed to tackling the issue of diversity and inclusion in academia, ensuring that every participant in the scientific enterprise has the opportunity to thrive.
Mavalvala’s contributions to the field of science have earned her numerous accolades, including the MacArthur “genius grant” Fellowship and the LGBTQ Scientist of the Year award. Her work has also been instrumental in advancing our understanding of the universe and the fundamental laws of physics.
With her visionary leadership and commitment to excellence and inclusivity, Nergis Mavalvala is sure to continue making significant contributions to the world of science and beyond.
Nergis Mavalvala’s story is an inspiring one, showcasing the power of curiosity, perseverance, and passion for science. Despite initial scepticism and discouragement from her peers, she followed her instincts and pursued her interest in observing gravitational waves, ultimately becoming a crucial participant in the LIGO project.
Mavalvala’s career highlights the importance of supporting and fostering a diverse and inclusive scientific community, where individuals from all backgrounds and identities can thrive and contribute to scientific discovery. Her leadership as the dean of sciences at MIT represents a step forward in this direction, and her advocacy for social and ethical responsibility in science is a reminder of the far-reaching impact of scientific research.
As the scientific community continues to push the boundaries of our understanding of the universe, Nergis Mavalvala’s contributions to the field of gravitational waves and macroscopic quantum mechanics stand as a testament to the power of scientific exploration and the importance of pursuing knowledge for the betterment of humanity.
Nergis Mavalvala’s work is a reminder that scientific discovery requires both innovation and perseverance. Her efforts to push the boundaries of our understanding of the universe and the fundamental laws of physics have already yielded significant breakthroughs, and her leadership and vision will undoubtedly inspire future generations of scientists.
As we continue to grapple with some of the biggest challenges facing our world today, including climate change, health, and social inequality, the importance of scientific research and innovation cannot be overstated. Nergis Mavalvala’s work serves as a powerful reminder of the vital role that science plays in addressing these challenges, and her leadership provides a beacon of hope for a more diverse, inclusive, and socially responsible scientific community.
In conclusion, Nergis Mavalvala’s remarkable journey from a curious graduate student to a renowned scientist and academic leader is a testament to the transformative power of scientific exploration and the importance of diversity, inclusion, and social responsibility in scientific research. Her contributions to the field of gravitational waves and macroscopic quantum mechanics will undoubtedly continue to inspire and inform future generations of scientists, and her visionary leadership will undoubtedly shape the scientific community for years to come.