2018 Herzberg Memorial Lecture speaker

2018 Dalhousie University, Monday, June 11, 2018, 7:30 P.M.

NERGIS MAVALVALA, Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO)/Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Warped Universe: The One Hundred Year Quest to Discover Einstein’s Gravitational Waves

 (Photo by Darren McCollester/for MacArthur Foundation)


The recent announcements of the first ever detections of gravitational waves from colliding black holes and neutron stars have launched a new era of gravitational wave astrophysics. Gravitational waves were predicted by Einstein a hundred years earlier. I will describe the science, technology, and human story behind these discoveries that provide a completely new window into some of the most violent and warped events in the Universe.


Nergis Mavalvala is a physicist whose research focuses on the detection of gravitational waves from violent events in the cosmos that warp and ripple the very fabric of spacetime. She was a member of the scientific team that announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes using the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors in February 2016. She received a B.A. from Wellesley College in 1990 and a Ph.D.  from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1997. She was a postdoctoral fellow and research scientist at the California Institute of Technology between 1997 and 2002. Since 2002, she has been on the Physics faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she is now the Marble Professor of Physics, Associate Department Head of Physics and recipient of a 2010 MacArthur “genius” award. In her spare time, she loves to bicycle long distances, play sports, and hang out with her family.