The only women to be part of the team which made the first direct gravitational wave observation, Dr. Nergis Mavalvala, a Pakistani American astrophysicist was born and raised in Karachi. She attended the Convent of
Dr. Nergis Mavalvala
The only women to be part of the team which made the first direct gravitational wave observation, Dr. Nergis Mavalvala, a Pakistani American astrophysicist was born and raised in Karachi. She attended the Convent of Jesus and Mary, a Catholic high school in Karachi and immigrated to the United States as a teenager in 1986 to attend Wellesley College, where she received her Bachelors in Physics and Astronomy in 1990.
Nergis then joined the physics faculty at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she conducted her doctoral work under Dr. Rainer Weiss and earned her Ph.D. in Physics in 1997. Before that, she was a postdoctoral researcher and then a research scientist at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), working on the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).
She was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2010. As a graduate student, Nergis developed a prototype laser interferometer for detecting gravitational waves. Her focus of study is on gravitational waves using the results from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).
Her work on gravitational waves was part of her research in graduate school at MIT, where she now is head of physics department. 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.
Nergis is among the Scientists, who have observed the warping of space-time generated by two black holes merging more than a billion light-years from Earth. It’s a massive confirmation of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and gives us a whole new way of looking at the universe.
Astronomy, before this landmark discovery, relied on light for observations whether it was UV, infrared or any other frequency. With gravitational waves, we now have an entirely different way of observing the universe.
According to a Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) scientist this discovery has ushered in an awesome new era of astronomy. Before this discovery looking out at the universe was like watching an orchestra without any sound. As our detectors start making regular observations of this stuff, it will be like turning on our ears to the symphony of the cosmos.
Prof. Karsten Danzmann, from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics and University in Hannover, Germany has said that there is a Nobel Prize in it. It is the first ever direct detection of gravitational waves. It’s the first ever direct detection of black holes and confirmation of General Relativity because the property of these black holes agrees exactly with what Einstein predicted almost exactly 100 years ago.
In 1916, Albert Einstein predicts gravitational waves exist as a consequence of the theory of general relativity. Gravitational waves give us another way to observe space. These waves could tell us a little more about how the universe formed. So detecting these waves would give us a new insight into the cosmic events that produced them.
Finally, gravitational waves could also help physicists understand the fundamental laws of the universe. They are, in fact, a crucial part of Einstein's general theory of relativity. This Pakistani Born is Part of LIGO Team that Discovered Gravitational Waves!
Will another Pakistani be among the team that receives a Nobel Prize for the detection of gravitational waves? Only time will tell. Till then, it’s another feather in the cap for Pakistan and Dr. Nergis Mavalvala, to whom we wish our most heartfelt congratulations. Keep making our country proud!