Nergis Mavalvala, PhD is a Pakistani-American astrophysicist known for her role which led to the first observation of gravitational waves. She is the Kathleen Marble Professor of Astrophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she is also the associate head of the physics department. She was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2010.
Born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, Mavalvala attended the Convent of Jesus and Mary, a Catholic high school in Karachi. She moved to the United States in 1986 to attend Wellesley College, and later moved to MIT where she conducted her doctoral work under Dr. Rainer Weiss. As a graduate student, Mavalvala developed a prototype laser interferometer for detecting gravitational waves.
After graduate school, she was a postdoctoral researcher and then a research scientist at the California Institute of Technology, working on the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). Her focus of study is on gravitational waves using the results from the LIGO.
Mavalvala was among the team of scientists who, for the first time, observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves. It was announced to the public on 11 February 2016. The detection announced confirmed a major prediction of Albert Einstein‘s 1915 general theory of relativity.