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21st Kaczmarczik Lecture

Exploring the Warped Universe: the 100-Year Quest to Detect Gravitational Waves

Nergis Mavalvala, PhD
Marble Professor of Astrophysics, MIT

Thursday, March 16, 2017
11:00 a.m.

Main Building Auditorium
3141 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

In February 2016, scientists announced the first ever detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes, launching a new era of gravitational wave astronomy and unprecedented tests of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Nergis Mavalvala, PhD, will describe the science and technology — and also the human story — behind the long quest that led to this discovery.

Nergis Mavalvala

Nergis Mavalvala, PhD, Marble Professor of Astrophysics at MIT and a 2010 recipient of a MacArthur "genius" award, is a physicist whose research focuses on the detection of gravitational waves from violent events in the cosmos that warp and ripple the fabric of spacetime. In February 2016, 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. Mavalvala has also conducted pioneering experiments in generating exotic quantum states of light and in the optical trapping and cooling of centimeter-scale objects to enable observation of quantum phenomena at the human scale. Mavalvala received her BA from Wellesley College and her PhD from MIT. After graduate school, she was a postdoctoral fellow and then a research scientist at the California Institute of Technology. Since 2002, she has been on the physics faculty at MIT. She is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the Optical Society of America.

About the Kaczmarczik Lecture

Paul Kaczmarczik began his career as a professor of physics at Drexel University in 1953. A key player in building the Physics and Atmospheric Science Department, he made important contributions to teaching at Drexel University during his many years of service. Well-liked by both his colleagues and his students, Professor Kaczmarczik became Professor Emeritus in 1989. The Kaczmarczik Lecture Series was established in 1995 in honor of Professor Kaczmarczik. It brings to Drexel outstanding scientists to present lectures on topics at the cutting edge of physics research.