Nergis Mavalvala, an astrophysicist working on the detection of gravitational waves and quantum measurement science, will deliver the keynote address at Harvey Mudd College’s 60th Commencement ceremony Sunday, May 13.
Mavalvala is a longtime member of the scientific team that announced in 2016 the first direct detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO). In the quest for ever greater sensitivity in the LIGO detectors, she has also conducted pioneering experiments on generation and application of exotic quantum states of light and on laser cooling and trapping of macroscopic objects to enable observation of quantum phenomena that usually manifest at the atomic scale, in human-scale systems.
Mavalvala received a B.A. from Wellesley College and a PhD from MIT. She was a postdoctoral fellow and research scientist at the California Institute of Technology before joining the physics faculty at MIT in 2002. She was appointed associate department head of physics in February 2015. Mavalvala is recipient of numerous honors, including a MacArthur “genius” award in 2010 and election to the National Academy of Sciences in 2016.
The College’s 60th Commencement will be held at 1:30 p.m., Sunday, May 13, on the Harvey S. Mudd Quadrangle.