Prof. Priyamvada Natarajan
Prof Priya is a theoretical astrophysicist interested in cosmology, gravitational lensing and black hole physics. Her research involves mapping the detailed distribution of dark matter in the universe exploiting the bending of light en-route to us from distant galaxies. In particular, she has focused on making dark matter maps of clusters of galaxies, the largest known repositories of dark matter. Gravitational lensing by clusters can also be utilized to constrain dark energy models and she has been developing the methodology and techniques to do so. Her work has demonstrated that cluster strong lensing offers a unique and potentially powerful laboratory to test evolving dark energy models.
Priya is also actively engaged in deriving and understanding the mass assembly history of black holes over cosmic time. She is exploring a new channel for the formation of the first black holes and its observational consequences at high and low redshift. This channel produces massive seeds derived from the direct collapse of pre-galactic gas disks at the earliest epochs. This is in contrast to the conventional picture wherein light seeds are produced from the end state of the first stars. Current measurements of the masses of black holes hosted in nearby faint galaxies supports the existence of a massive seeding model. In earlier work, she argued for the existence of an upper limit to black hole masses in the universe by showing that black holes eventually stunt their own growth. This self-regulation implies the presence of ultra-massive black holes with capped masses in the centers of nearby galaxies that have since been observationally detected.
Priya was the chair of the Womens Faculty Forum (WFF) from 2011 – 2013 at Yale. She was on the Steering Committee of the Womens Faculty Forum from 2003-2010. She is deeply interested in Institutional Change with regard to Gender Parity in the Academy. Along with Judith Resnik and Reva Siegel at the Yale Law School, she has co-organized two Gruber conferences titled Parity as Practice: The Politics of Equality held from 30 – 31 March, 2012 and the second one titled Contesting Gender Inequalities” from 25 – 28 April, 2013 at the Law School. Priya is on the Board of the Swiss Edge Certified Foundation that works toward gender equality in the workplace.
She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for the academic year (2010 – 2011), during which she was also a JILA Fellow at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a visiting professor at the Institute for Theory and Computation at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Priya was the 2009 recipient of the India Abroad Foundation’s “Face of the Future ” Award. She was also the 2009 recipient of the award for academic achievement from the Global Organization for the People of Indian Origin (GOPIO). Priya was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society in 2010. She was also elected a fellow of the Explorers Club in 2010. In January 2011 she was awarded an India Empire NRI award for Achievement in the Sciences in New Delhi, India.