OPEN - "A Tale of Two Physicists"


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Nergis Mavalvala

Nergis Mavalvala, Marble Professor of Astrophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (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. Mavalvala is a member of the scientific team that in February 2016 announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes using the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors. As a member of the LIGO team, she shared in the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics (2016) and Gruber Prize in Cosmology (2016). Mavalvala has also conducted pioneering experiments to create and use exotic quantum states of light, and also to optically cool and trap centimeter-scale objects to enable observation of quantum phenomena in macroscopic objects. Mavalvala received her undergraduate degree from Wellesley College and her Ph.D. from MIT. After graduate school, she was a postdoctoral fellow and research scientist at the California Institute of Technology. In 2002 she returned to MIT as faculty. In her spare time, she loves to bicycle long distances, play squash, and spend time with her family.


Tasneem Zehra Husain

Tasneem Zehra Husain is a theoretical physicist, writer and educator. Her debut novel “Only the Longest Threads” was appreciated by critics as “a fictional approach to physics that captures both the substance of the theory and the passion of its practitioners”. Husain’s research probes the realm of 11-dimensional supergravity, but she also has a more general interest in the history and philosophy of physics. Husain is fascinated by how we engage with scientific theories, and how that interaction changes us; she explores these themes in her fiction and nonfiction writing. Husain is concerned with issues in science education, and has conducted several workshops for school teachers. She is also actively involved in outreach, to students as well as lay audiences. After receiving her PhD in string theory from Stockholm University, Husain pursued post-doctoral research at Harvard University, before returning to Lahore as a founding faculty member at the LUMS School of Science & Engineering. She currently resides in Cambridge.