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Leading US Physicist to Throw Light on the 100-year Quest for Einstein’s Gravitational Waves

Otago Museum is pleased to be co-hosting, with the Dodd-Walls Centre and the University of Otago, a free public talk by Professor Nergis Mavalvala on Thursday 31 January.

Professor Mavalvala is a physicist researching the detection of gravitational waves and quantum measurement science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a long-time 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).

Professor David Hutchinson, Dodd-Walls Centre Director says, “We are very excited to have Professor Mavalvala here for the Dodd-Walls Centre’s symposium. She is on our international science advisory panel, and is coming to Dunedin to provide advice and recommendations about the quality of our science and how it compares to the rest of the world.”

Her talk, Opening a New Window into the Universe: The 100-year Quest for Einstein’s Gravitational Waves, will explain how these waves are ripples in the spacetime fabric caused by the motion of massive astrophysical objects such as black holes and neutron stars, and how the field of gravitational wave astrophysics is providing a completely new window into the universe.

This is the second public lecture hosted by the Museum in the past two months featuring women working at the global forefront of astronomy research, following Dr Megan Donahue’s sell-out talk in early December.

Dr Craig Grant, Otago Museum Visitor Experience and Science Engagement Director, says, “Thanks to our great relationships with organisations such as the Dodd-Walls Centre and the University of Otago we can open up this world of incredible researchers and new knowledge to the people of Dunedin.”

The Dodd-Walls Centre is holding its 2019 Symposium at the Otago Museum’s Hutton Theatre from 28 January until 1 February.


Professor Nergis Mavalvala
Curtis and Kathleen Marble Professor of Astrophysics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, USA
MIT profile page -

Professor Mavalvala has been a recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant and, in 2017, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. She received a BA from Wellesley College and a PhD from MIT. She was a postdoctoral fellow and research scientist at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) before joining the Physics faculty at MIT in 2002.


Opening a New Window into the Universe: The 100-year Quest for Einstein’s Gravitational Waves
Free public talk
5.30pm, Thursday 31 January
Hutton Theatre, Otago Museum