Wednesday April 12, 2023

Prof. Nergis Mavalvala, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Title: The Warped Universe: the quest to discover Einstein’s elusive gravitational waves

Abstract: The first direct detections of gravitational waves in 2015 launched a new era of gravitational wave astrophysics. I will describe the scientific and human story behind these discoveries that provide a window into some of the most violent and warped events in the Universe.

Biographical Sketch: Nergis Mavalvala

Nergis Mavalvala is the Curtis and Kathleen Marble Professor of Physics and Dean of Science at MIT. Raised in Karachi, Pakistan, and educated at Wellesley College and MIT, she is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and in 2010 she was named a MacArthur Fellow. She is a leading contributor to the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) experiment that provided the first direct observation of the “gravity waves” resulting from the merger of two cosmic black holes as predicted by Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. In 2015 this team was awarded a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, and in 2017 Rainer Weiss (MIT) and Kip Thorne and Barry Barish (CalTech) were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for this work. Prof Mavalvala will describe the history and future prospects of this amazing experiment.