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. She currently serves as the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of Astronomy.
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.
Her first book aimed at the curious public, titled Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos was published in 2016 by Yale University Press. The book received an honorable mention in the in Cosmology and Astronomy Section.
Priya has undergraduate degrees in Physics and Mathematics from
Priya has undergraduate degrees in Physics and Mathematics from. href="http://www.mit.edu">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. In November 2014, she organized the
in the news
Interviewed on Science Friday, the Philosophy Talk, KQED and several radio stations.
Invited talks at the American Musuem of Natural History in NYC; at Google's Seattle campus and at the Secret Sceince Club in Brooklyn, NYC.
Invited Opening tal "My Big Idea..." at the Aspen Ideas Festival, June 2016.
On John Dankosky's NPR show, Where We Live (Dec 16, 2014).
Recent piece in the New York Review of Books titled "What Scientists Really Do" is here.
Invited speaker at the Secret Science Club.
Panelist at a roundatable discussion at The Helix Center for Inter-disciplinary research on Knowledge and limitations.
Invited speaker at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival Science Media Symposium, 2014 .
Press release on Science paper with Tal Alexander on Superboosting growth of early black holes is here.
Panelist at a roundtable discussion at The Helix Center for Inter-disciplinary research on Women in Science.
Member of the Alumni Advisory Group for the Institute-wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education, report is here.
Member of the Foundation Board of the Edge Certified Foundation based at Zug, Switzerland.
Niels Bohr Lecture at NBI, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Awarded an NSF Theoretical & Computational Astrophysics Network (TCAN) -
for project titled "The multi-scale physics of massive black hole formation, fueling and feedback" Natarajan (Yale), Reynolds
(Maryland) and Laguna (Georgia Tech).
Public Chalk Talk titled From Fasting to Feasting: the strange feeding habits
of black holes at KITP, Santa Barbara.
Op-Ed piece in CNN titled The myth of the "Jewish mother of the bomb".
CASI Khemka Lecture at the University of Pennsylvania.
Distinguished Visitor at Morningside College, Chinese University of Hongkong, HongKong, China.
Invited speaker at the Paco Yndurain Colloquium 2012/13 at UAM, Madrid, Spain.
Invited submission for India in Transition titled Transforming India into a Knowledge Power, published on January 14, 2013.
Op-Ed piece in The Hindustan Times titled Our footsteps on the moon published on January 10, 2013.
Yale Daily News piece on WISAY forum on gender bias in the sciences, Panel addresses gender bias in the sciences published on November 9, 2012.
Yale Daily News piece on Young Global Leaders Forum titled "How to nurture women leaders" Global leaders consider modern feminism published on October 10, 2012.
YaleNews article on the Yale World Fellows Program event Yale panel discusses need for fostering more women leaders published on October 4, 2012.
YaleNews interview on status of women faculty at Yale Progress continues for women faculty, but gradually published on October 4, 2012.
Yale Daily News piece on the WFF publication of Yale's gender data, The View 2012 Women under-represented in faculty, report finds published on September 11, 2012.
Op-Ed piece in The Hindustan Times titled Where honour is due published on July 8, 2012.
Op-Ed piece in The Huffington Post titled Can Science Be Crowd-Sourced? published on June 29, 2012.
The Yale MacMillan Report Interview, May 16, 2012.
Op-Ed piece in The Huffington Post titled How Science Works, published on May 11, 2012.
Op-Ed piece in The Huffington Post titled How to build a Science Superpower, published on April 1, 2012.
Article in Change magazine on generating institutional change -
revamping Yale's Sexual Misconduct Policy Implementing Yale's Sexual Misconduct Policy: The Process of Institutional Change, published March-April 2012.
Profile and Interview in YaleNews Helping women faculty navigate `career pressure points' published on March 19, 2012.
Op-Ed piece in The Washington Post titled Want your kid to be a scientist? Start in elementary school, published on February 2, 2012.
Op-Ed piece in The Hindustan Times titled It is elementary, published on January 15, 2012.
Paper titled Evidence for three accreting black holes in a galaxy at z ~ 1.35: A snapshot of recently formed black hole seeds? published in ApJ Letters. Related Yale Office of Public Affairs press release can be found here.
Collaboration with artist Alyson Shotz titled "Triple Infinity"
published in the Fall 2011 issue of ESOPUS magazine.
The conference Why is there anything in the Universe? got a mention in the NYTimes Wordplay column titled Numberplay: Turtles All The Way Down.
Interview on NPR with John Dankosky on `Where we Live'
Article on the Yale Public Voices Thought Leadership Fellowship Project.
Official Yale OPA press release on upcoming conference Why is there anything in the Universe?.
Yale Bulletin article on recent WISAY Panel discussion.
Awarded medals to the American Math Olympiad team girls at the recent Math Prize for Girls ceremony held at M.I.T.
Recent Op-Ed piece titled Close the Math Gap, published in the Huffington Post on
August 31, 2011.
Op-Ed piece in The Hindustan Times titled Keep the home fires burning, published on August 2, 2011.
Spotlight talk and participant at the Dark Matter Salon at the World Science Festival June 2 - 5, NYC.
Video stream of Spotlight talk at the World Science Festival.
Press conference at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. on June 15, announcing discovery of a new population of high redshift
baby black holes.
Op-Ed piece in The Hindustan Times titled Follow the sun, published on March 28, 2011.
ACS Image of Abell 1689 with our overplotted dark matter mass map ranked #3 by the New Yorker for best
NASA photographs of 2010!
Paper titled "Cosmological Constraints from Strong Gravitational Lensing in Clusters
of Galaxies" published on 20th August, 2010 in Science. The official Yale OPA press release is here .
Announcement of Guggenheim Fellows for 2009-2010.
Paper titled Major Galaxy mergers and the Growth of Supermassive Black Holes
in Quasars published on 30th April, 2010 in Science. Related press release from the
Yale Office of Public Affairs can be found here.
selected publications and recently submitted papers
Rapid growth of seeds black holes in the early universe by supra-exponential accretion Tal Alexander and Priyamvada Natarajan, 2014, Science, 345, 6202, 1330-1333.
Hubble Frontier Fields: a high precision strong-lensing analysis of galaxy cluster MACSJ0416.1-2403 using 200 multiple images Mathilde Jauzac et al. 2014, MNRAS, 443, 1549.
New Constraints on the Faint-end of the UV Luminosity Function at z ~ 7-8 using the Gravitational Lensing of the Hubble Frontier Fields Cluster A2744 Hakim Atek et al. 2014, submitted.
Hubble Frontier Fields: The Geometry and Dynamics of the Massive Galaxy Cluster Merger MACSJ0416.1-2403 Mathilde Jauzac et al. 2014, MNRAS, submitted.
New observational constraints on the growth of the first supermassive black holes
Ezequiel Treister, Kevin Schawinski, Marta Volonteri and Priyamvada Natarajan, 2013, ApJ, 778, 130.
Understanding black hole mass assembly via accretion and mergers at late times in cosmological simulations
Andrea Kulier, Jeremiah Ostriker, Priyamvada Natarajan, Claire Lackner and Renyue Cen, 2013, submitted ApJ.
Probing the z>6 Universe with the first Hubble Frontier Fields Cluster Abell 2744
Hakim Atek et al. 2014, ApJ, 786, 60.
The Effect of Large-Scale Structure on the Magnification of High-Redshift Sources by Cluster-lenses
Anson D'Aloisio, Priyamvada Natarajan and Paul Shapiro, MNRAS, submitted.
Unravelling obese black holes in the first galaxies
Bhaskar Agarwal, Andrew Davis, Sadegh Khochfar, Priyamvada Natarajan and James Dunlop, 2013, MNRAS, 432, 3438.
The mass function of black holes 1 < z < 4.5: comparison of models with observations
Priyamvada Natarajan and Marta Volonteri, 2012, MNRAS, 422, 2051.
Star Formation in the Early Universe: Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg
Nial Tanvir et al., 2012, ApJ, 754, 46.
The Effects of Promordial Non-Gaussianity on Giant-Arc Statistics: A Scale Dependent Example
Anson D'Alosio and Priyamvada Natarajan, 2012, Proceedings of New Horizons in Astronomy Symposium, arXiv:1202.0553.
Combined strong and weak lensing analysis of 28 clusters from the SDSS Giant Arcs Survey
Masamune Oguri, Matthew Bayliss, Haakon Dahle, Keren Sharon, Michael Gladders, Priyamvada Natarajan, Joseph Hennawi and
Benjamin Koester, 2012, MNRAS, 420, 3213.
The polytropic approximation and X-ray scaling relations: constraints on gas and dark matter profiles for galaxy groups
Pedro Capelo, Paolo Coppi and Priyamvada Natarajan, 2012, MNRAS, 422, 686.
Evidence for three accreting black holes in a galaxy at z ~ 1.35: A Snapshot of recently formed black hole seeds?
Kevin Schawinski, Meg Urry, Ezrquiel Treister, Brooke Simmons, Priyamvada Natarajan and Eilat Glikman, 2011, ApJ, 743, L37.
The mass function of black holes at 1 < < 4.5: comparison of models with observations
Priyamvada Natarajan and Marta Volonteri, 2012, in press, MNRAS.
The mass assembly history of black holes in the Universe
Priyamvada Natarajan, 2011, Invited Review, AIP.
Jean-Paul Kneib and Priyamvada Natarajan, 2011, Invited Review, Astronomy & Astrophysics Reviews.
Black hole growth in the early Universe is self-regulated and largely hidden from view
Ezequiel Treister, Kevin Schawinski, Marta Volonteri, Priyamvada Natarajan and Eric Gawiser, 2011, Nature, 474, 356.
The effects of primordial non-gaussianity on giant-arc statistics
Anson D'Aloisio and Priyamvada Natarajan, 2011, MNRAS, 415, 1913.
How important is the dark matter halo for black hole growth?
Marta Volonteri, Priyamvada Natarajan and Kayhan Gultekin, 2011, ApJ, 737, 50.
The sudden death of the nearest quasar,
Kevin Schawinski et al., 2010, ApJ, 724, L30.
Cosmological Constraints from Strong Gravitational Lensing in Clusters of Galaxies,
Eric Jullo, Priyamvada Natarajan et al., 2010, Science, 329, 924.
Cosmography with cluster strong lensing: the influence of substructure and line-of-sight haloes,
Anson D'Aloisio and Priyamvada Natarajan, 2011, MNRAS, 411, 1628.
Virialization of high redshift dark matter haloes,
Andrew Davis, Anson D'Aloisio and Priyamvada Natarajan, MNRAS, in press.
Major Galaxy Mergers and the Growth of Supermassive Black Holes in Quasars,
Ezequiel Treister, Priyamvada Natarajan et al., 2010, Science, 328, 600.
Observed Scaling Relations for Strong Lensing Clusters: Consequences for Cosmology and Cluster Assembly,
Julia Comerford, Leonidas Moustakas and Priyamvada Natarajan, 2010, ApJ, 715, 162.
Spin and structural halo properties at high redshift in a LCDM Universe,
Andrew Davis and Priyamvada Natarajan, 2010, MNRAS, 407, 691.
Hydrostatic equilibrium profiles for gas in elliptical galaxies,
Pedro Capelo, Priyamvada Natarajan and Paolo Coppi, 2010, MNRAS, 407, 1148.
Is there an upper limit to black hole masses?,
Priyamvada Natarajan and Ezequiel Treister, MNRAS, 393, 838, 2009.
Angular momentum and the clustering properties of early dark matter haloes,
Andrew Davis and Priyamvada Natarajan, MNRAS, 393, 1498, 2009.
The survival of dark matter halos in the cluster Cl0024+16,
Priyamvada Natarajan et al., ApJ, 693, 970, 2009