Natarajan appointed Fruton Professor of Astronomy and Professor of Physics

Yale astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan maps the unseen universe — invisible entities like dark matter, black holes, and dark energy.
Priyamvada Natarajan
Priyamvada Natarajan

Priyamvada Natarajan, a theoretical astrophysicist who maps the unseen universe — invisible entities like dark matter, black holes, and dark energy — whose presence can only be indirectly inferred from observational data, has been appointed the inaugural Joseph S. and Sophia S. Fruton Professor of Astronomy and Professor of Physics, effective immediately.

She is a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in the departments of Astronomy and Physics and is the current chair of the Department of Astronomy.

A Yale faculty member since 2000, Natarajan has made seminal contributions to our understanding of the coupling of the visible and dark universe: the formation, fueling, feedback and assembly history of supermassive black holes in their larger scale cosmic context and mapping dark matter substructure in clusters of galaxies. Her research has focused on confronting and testing theoretical ideas with observational data in astrophysics. She has made significant contributions to two key open problems in astrophysics — to the studies of dark matter using gravitational lensing and to our current understanding of the formation, fueling and growth of black holes over cosmic time. An internationally acknowledged intellectual leader, her papers have spawned and continue to generate and open up fertile research sub-fields at the current frontier in astrophysics.

Her research and original contributions to astrophysics have been recognized with many awards and honors, including the Liberty Science Center (LSC) Genius Award, the Emeline Conland Bigelow Fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the India Abroad Foundation’s “Face of the Future” Award, an India Empire NRI award for Achievement in the Sciences and the award for academic achievement from the Global Organization for the People of Indian Origin (GOPIO). She is an elected fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, the American Physical Society, and the Explorers Club. In addition to her faculty position at Yale, Natarajan holds the Sophie and Tycho Brahe Professorship at the Niels Bohr Institute of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and an honorary professorship for life at the University of Delhi, India. She is an external principal investigator at the Black Hole Initiative at Harvard University and an associate member of the Center for Computational Astrophysics at the Flatiron Institute in New York.

Natarajan is a leader in her field. She serves as science editor of Extragalactic Astrophysics and Astronomy, chaired the National Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee to NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Energy, has held fellowships or visiting positions at the International Center for Theoretical Sciences in Bangalore, the Institute for Astronomy in Manoa, the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Harvard Institute for Theory and Computation, the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics at the University of Colorado, the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy, and other institutions. She has given invited lectures for the American Astronomical Society, the Venice Biennale, the Royal Academy of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Niels Bohr Institute, and other organizations and institutions.

At Yale, Natarajan is currently the director of the Franke Program in Science and the Humanities, and in that role has played an integral role in developing university-wide programs that lead to cross-disciplinary collaboration, bridging the so-called two cultures. She is the author of the award-winning book “Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas that Reveal the Cosmos” (Yale University Press), which tracks the history of discoveries that have transformed our understanding of the cosmos and our place in it in the last century and tells the story of how new ideas about the cosmos have taken hold. Deeply interested in interdisciplinary scholarship, she regularly collaborates with artists and writers, and is herself a published poet and regular contributor to the New York Review of Books. In addition, from 2011 to 2014 she chaired Yale’s Women Faculty Forum and has been active in efforts to foster diversity in the sciences at Yale and beyond.

Natarajan earned her Ph.D. from Cambridge, where she was the first woman in Astrophysics to be elected a Fellow at Trinity College and her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MIT.

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