Priyamvada Natarajan

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Priya Natarajan
Natarajan at KITP, Santa Barbara
Born1969 (age 54–55)[1]
Alma materMIT, University of Cambridge, Trinity College, Institute of Astronomy
Scientific career
FieldsCosmology, theoretical astrophysics
InstitutionsYale University (professor)

Priyamvada (Priya) Natarajan is a theoretical astrophysicist and professor in the departments of astronomy and physics at Yale University.[2] She is noted for her work in mapping dark matter and dark energy, particularly in gravitational lensing and in models describing the assembly and accretion histories of supermassive black holes. She authored the book Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos.[3]

Early life[edit]

Priya Natarajan was born in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu in India to academic parents.[4] She is one of three children. Natarajan grew up in Delhi, India and studied at Delhi Public School, R. K. Puram.[citation needed]


Natarajan has undergraduate degrees in physics and mathematics from M.I.T. She was also enrolled in the M.I.T. Program in Science, Technology & Society and the M.I.T. Program in Technology and Public Policy from 1991 to 1993. She did her graduate work in theoretical astrophysics at the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, England, receiving a Ph.D. degree in 1998.[2] There she was a member of Trinity College and was elected to a Title A Research Fellowship that she held from 1997 to 2003. Prior to coming to Yale, she was a visiting postdoctoral fellow at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics in Toronto, Canada.

Research areas[edit]

Natarajan has done extensive work in the following fields:

  • Gravitational lensing – combining strong and weak lensing analysis techniques; use of lensing as a probe to study galaxy evolution in clusters via local weak shear effects; weak lensing by large-scale structure; using lensing as a probe of the shapes of dark matter halos; and understanding intrinsic correlations in the shapes of galaxies.
  • Clusters of galaxies – using lensing, X-ray and Sunyaev-Zeldovich data in conjunction to study the dynamics of galaxies in clusters; velocity anisotropy of galaxy orbits; characterizing cluster growth and evolution in phase space and physics of the relaxation process.
  • Accretion physics – issues of the alignment of the spin of disks and the central black holes; the evolution of warped accretion disks; Lense-Thirring precession; the Blandford-Znajek mechanism, and the accretion history of supermassive black holes.
  • Issues in galaxy formation and the fueling of quasars – the connection between high redshift galaxies, active galactic nuclei and their central black holes; the black hole mass function; role of quasars and their outflows in galaxy formation; kinematic Sunyaev-Zeldovich effect from quasars; the physics of feedback processes in galaxy formation; stellar contributors to the X-ray background and the evolution of neutral gas with redshift.
  • Binary black holes – the merger and evolution of supermassive black hole binaries in gas-rich galaxy cores; the electro-magnetic and gravitational wave signatures from these systems; the implications for structure formation at high redshifts.
  • Gamma-ray bursts – the relation of gamma-ray burst rates to the globally averaged star formation rate, the morphology and properties of gamma-ray burst host galaxies in the optical, and sub-mm wave-bands, the SN-GRB connection.[5]

Honors and awards[edit]

Natarajan was awarded the Emeline Conland Bigelow Fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute of Harvard University in 2008. In 2009, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Natarajan was also the 2009 recipient of the India Abroad Foundation's "Face of the Future" Award and the recipient of the award for academic achievement from the Global Organization for the People of Indian Origin (GOPIO). Natarajan was elected a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2009, the American Physical Society in 2010, and the Explorers Club in 2010. She was awarded a JILA (Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics) Fellowship in 2010. In January, 2011 she was awarded an India Empire NRI award for Achievement in the Sciences in New Delhi, India. She was the Caroline Herschel Distinguished Visitor at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore for 2011–2012. In addition to her current appointments at Yale and Harvard, she also holds the Sophie and Tycho Brahe Professorship, Dark Cosmology Center, Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark and was recently elected to an honorary professorship for life at the University of Delhi.[6]

She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2023.[7] She was named a Fellow of the American Astronomical Society in 2024, "for seminal contributions to our understanding of the nature of dark matter and black hole physics, and for the development of a brand-new framework that enables mapping the detailed distribution of dark matter on small scales within galaxy clusters using gravitational lensing".[8]

Natarajan was named by Time as one of its hundred most influential people in 2024.[9]


  1. ^ "Priyamvada Natarajan". October 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Priyamvada Natarajan". Yale University. Department of Physics, Yale. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  3. ^ Natarajan, Priyamvada (2016). Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300204414.
  4. ^ "Who is Priyamvada Natarajan, the Indian-American astrophysicist featured in TIME's 100 most influential list?". The Indian Express. 18 April 2024. Archived from the original on 18 April 2024. Retrieved 21 April 2024.
  5. ^ "" Priyamvada Natarajan"". Research Website - Yale. Retrieved 5 May 2024.
  6. ^ Enslin, Rob (19 October 2017). "Yale Physicist to Deliver 10th Annual Wali Lecture Oct. 26". SU News. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  7. ^ "New members". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 2023. Retrieved 21 April 2023.
  8. ^ "AAS Names 21 New Fellows for 2024". American Astronomical Society. 1 February 2024. Retrieved 2 February 2024.
  9. ^ "The 100 Most Influential People of 2024: Priyamvada Natarajan". Time (magazine). 17 April 2024. Archived from the original on 17 April 2024. Retrieved 21 April 2024.

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