Nergis first recipient of Lahore Technology Award

LAHORE - Fumbling, stumbling, grumbling, lost in the world of physics and walking on the unplanned paths, Professor Nergis Mavalvala from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was able to solve centuries-old mystery about gravitational waves.

"I repaired bicycles and did hours long chemistry concoction in Karachi. My first forays of research were in college time when I got to know there is a whole field of science where I could pursue my career," she said.

Dr Nergis Mavalvala is Professor of Astrophysics and Head of Department of Physics at the MIT. She is a Parsi celebrity scientist. She is best known for her role in first observation of gravitational waves. The team she was working with also got Nobel Prize in physics.

She delivered a lecture on “The Warped Universe: hundred years quest to detect gravitational waves, Ligo and Virgo Collaborations” at Arfa Software Technology Park on Sunday. She was awarded the first Lahore Technology Award institutionalised by the Syndicate of Information Technology University (ITU) on her discovery of gravitational waves. She was born in Lahore and raised in Karachi.

In her lecture, Dr Nergis narrated in story style the warped universe. A large number of audience took interest in her scientific observations. She said the journey of gravitational waves starting from Newton had reached its optimal level in the time of Einstein. She said through the discovery on the gravitational waves “we will be solving some of the unsolved mysteries of the universe”. 

“It was a time when you think, gravitational waves are faint and they ripple of space-time travelling at the speed of light. They even stretch and compress space-time itself,” she said.  She mentioned that detector Ligo and Virgo are not only two detectors in the world; there are three in Italy and a 3km detector is under construction in Japan.

With the advancement in physics, Einstein’s General Relatively theory seems to be correct that black holes exist and they even form pairs, she said.

“But there are puzzles too. How does nature makes heavy black holes and how they form pairs is still a question,” Dr Mavalvala said.  The recent discovery has solved some of the mysteries too like heavy metals like gold and platinum are formed in neutron star and mergers.

She said by using gravity alone or with light a new tool for unimagined new discoveries in universe can be unearth.

ITU Vice Chancellor Dr Umar Saif said in his welcoming remarks that Pakistan does not have major academic award to acknowledge and celebrate services of Pakistani scientists.

"The Lahore Technology Award first recipient set the bar extremely high and signalled what we believe is a befitting example to emulate for Pakistani scientists," he added. The example of Dr Nergis would encourage more women to come forward to offer distinctive services in the field of technology, he said.

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