Pakistani-origin astrophysicist Nergis Mavalvala named dean of MIT School of Science

Pakistani-origin astrophysicist Nergis Mavalvala has been appointed the new Dean of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s prestigious School of Science, succeeding Michael Sipser, said the university’s administration.

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According to MIT News, Nergis Mavalvala will be the first woman to serve as the dean of the School of Science.

Mavalvala is known for her pioneering research in the gravitational-wave detection, which she carried out at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory.

Since 2015, the Pakistani origin astrophysicist has been the associate head of the MIT Department of Physics.

“Nergis’s brilliance as a researcher and educator speaks eloquently for itself,” says MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “What excites me equally about her appointment as dean are the qualities I have seen in her as a leader: She is a deft, collaborative problem-solver, a wise and generous colleague, an incomparable mentor, and a champion for inclusive excellence. As we prepare for the start of this most unusual academic year, it gives me great comfort to know that the School of Science will remain in such capable hands.”

Provost Martin Schmidt told the MIT community in the newsletter today, writing, “I very much look forward to working with Nergis and to benefiting from her unerring sense of scientific opportunity, infectious curiosity, down-to-earth manner and practical wisdom. I hope you will join me in congratulating her as she brings her great gifts as a leader to this new role.”

Mavalvala was quite optimistic about her appointment and the charge she is set to take, saying that she is cognizant of the unprecedented challenges at the school during these times.

“We’re in this moment where enormous changes are afoot,” Mavalvala says. “We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and economic challenge, and we’re also in a moment, at least in U.S. history, where the imperative for racial and social justice is really strong. As someone in a leadership position, that means you have opportunities to make an important and hopefully lasting impact.”

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