Priyamvada Natarajan

Astrophysicist, Science Educator, Professor at Yale University

Priyamvada Natarajan received is a theoretical astrophysicist interested in cosmology, gravitational lensing and black hole physics. Her research interests lie in unraveling the nature of exotica in the universe – dark matter, dark energy and black holes. She is widely recognized for key contributions to two of the most challenging problems in cosmology: mapping dark matter, the origin of the first black hole seeds and tracing the accretion history of black holes over cosmic time. Her work using gravitational lensing techniques has provided a deeper understanding of the granularity of dark matter in clusters of galaxies.  She has developed theoretical models to describe the formation of direct collapse black holes in the early universe that will be tested with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope mission.

She is a Professor at Yale University where she has appointments in the Departments of Astronomy & Physics. She currently also serves as the Director of the Franke Program in Science & the Humanities at Yale. She holds undergraduate degrees in Physics and Mathematics and a graduate degree from the Program in Science, Technology & Society from M.I.T. She got her PhD at the University of Cambridge, U.K. where she was awarded an Isaac Newton Fellowship and was subsequently elected a fellow of Trinity College Cambridge. She was the first woman in Astrophysics to be elected to a fellowship at Trinity.

Recipient of many awards and honors, including the Guggenheim and Radcliffe fellowships, she is the current chair of the Division of Astrophysics of the American Physical Society. In addition to her academic position at Yale, she also holds an Honorary Professorship for life at the University of Delhi, India. Priya is a public intellectual and is deeply invested in the public understanding of science. She serves on the board of NOVA ScienceNow, frequently appears in PBS and BBC science documentaries as well as on NPR. Her research work is frequently written about in the popular press – outlets ranging from Scientific American to CNN, and she is a regular contributor for the New York Review of Books. Her first book Mapping the Heavens: Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos was published in 2017.