This is the web page of Priyamvada Natarajan, Professor in the Departments of Astronomy and Physics at Yale University. She 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.
In addition to her academic position at Yale, she also currently holds the Sophie and Tycho Brahe Professorship of the Dark Cosmology Center, Niels Bohr Institute, at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. She has been recently elected to an Honorary Professorship for life at the University of Delhi, India.
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. She was enrolled as a graduate student in the Spring (2011) at the Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT. She was a resident fellow at the Rockefeller Bellagio Center in Italy during May-June 2011. In 2008-2009, she was a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and held the Emeline Bigelow Conland Fellowship.
Priya was the Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Astronomy at Yale during the academic years 2009-2010 and 2007-2008 and was the Director for Graduate Studies for Admissions in 2011-2012. She was a Whitney Humanities fellow at Yale (2006 - 2007), and a resident faculty fellow of Saybrook College. Priya is a member of the Publications Committee of the Yale Press, a member of the Terry Lectureship Committee and on the Executive Committee of the South Asian Studies Council and India Initiative at Yale.
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 is invested in the public dissemination of science and is on the Advisory Board of NOVA ScienceNow. Priya is actively engaged in developing strategies to enhance numerical and scientific literacy for the public at large. She is also interested in inter-disciplinary scholarship within the academy and along with Michael della Rocca (Yale Philosophy) and Denys Turner (Yale, Religious Studies) she co-organized a conference titled Why is there anything in the Universe? in October 2011.
Priya has undergraduate degrees in Physics and Mathematics from M.I.T. While at M.I.T she was awarded the Peter J. Eloranta Award for excellence in undergraduate research, the Carroll Wilson Award, a Burchard fellowship and the Ida Green Fellowship. She is also interested in the history and philosophy of science as well as technology and public policy and was enrolled in the MIT Program in Science, Technology & Society and the MIT Program in Technology and Public Policy . She was awarded a Master's Degree (S.M.) from MIT's Program in Science, Technology and Society. She did her graduate work in theoretical astrophysics at the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge in England, where she was a member of Trinity College and was elected to a Title A Research Fellowship. She was the first woman in Astrophysics to be elected a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Prior to coming to Yale, she was a visiting postdoctoral fellow for a few months at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics in Toronto, Canada.
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. She is the Caroline Herschel Distinguished Visitor at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore for 2011-2013. She chaired the Scientific Organizing Committee for the conference titled Cluster Lensing: Peering into the past, planning for the future held at the Space Telescope Science Institute from April 14 - 18, 2013.