Nergis Mavalvala
Nergis Mavalvala Image Credit:

Pakistani-American astrophysicist Nergis Mavalvala has been named the new dean of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) School of Science in the US. She is the first woman to serve as dean in the institute’s history. Pakistanis online have congratulated the scientist and called it a "proud" moment. 

Mavalvala, the Curtis and Kathleen Marble Professor of Astrophysics, is known for her pioneering work in gravitational-wave detection, which she conducted as a leading member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), according to the MIT website.

She has received numerous awards and honours for her research and teaching, and since 2015 has been the associate head of the Department of Physics.

Mavalwala, who was born in Lahore and grew up in Karachi, will assume her responsibilities from September 1.

“We’re in this moment where enormous changes are afoot,” Mavalvala was quoted as saying on the MIT website.

“We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and economic challenge, and we’re also in a moment, at least in US history, where the imperative for racial and social justice is really strong,” she added.

Mavalvala earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and astronomy from Wellesley College, before moving to MIT in 1990 where she pursued a PhD in physics.

After completing her degree, she attended The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1997 as a postdoc, studying the cosmic microwave background. In 2000, she joined as a staff scientist at the LIGO Laboratory, where researchers were collaborating with Weiss’ group at MIT to build LIGO’s detectors. She spent two years with the Caltech team before accepting a position that took her back to MIT, where she joined the faculty in 2002 as assistant professor of physics.

In 2015 she was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, as part of the LIGO team.

“Nergis’s brilliance as a researcher and educator speaks eloquently for itself,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif was quoted as saying.

“What excites me equally about her appointment as dean are the qualities I have seen in her as a leader: She is a deft, collaborative problem-solver, a wise and generous colleague, an incomparable mentor, and a champion for inclusive excellence. As we prepare for the start of this most unusual academic year, it gives me great comfort to know that the School of Science will remain in such capable hands,” he added.

As her appointment’s news was shared, netizens congratulated her.

Tweep @AhmadNarowal shared a picture with the scientist and wrote: “One of the greatest honors of my life was to be able to meet Dr. Nergis Mavalvala with @betterpakistan at MIT in 2016. Congratulations on her appointment as Dean of School of Science (the best science department in the world)!”

Twitter user @Voice4Peace1 wrote: "Congratulations! What an achievement. A proud moment for Pakistanis especially women. Nergis Mavalvala named School of Science dean."