Priyamvada Natarajan—a theoretical astrophysicist who works in cosmology, with a particular emphasis on studies of dark matter—is an associate professor in the astronomy and physics departments at Yale University. Natarajan’s research interests span several areas in contemporary astrophysics, from gravitational lensing studies of clusters and galaxies to the formation of the first black holes and their subsequent growth in the universe. A key focus of her work has been the detailed mapping of the spatial distribution of dark matter in cosmic structures.
While at Radcliffe, Natarajan will further investigate dark energy. The contents, fate, and geometry of the universe are intricately linked, and dark energy appears to be powering the universe’s accelerating expansion. The brightnesses of distant supernovae have provided the strongest evidence yet for the existence of dark energy, and the quest is on for viable techniques. Natarajan will explore whether gravitational lensing by galaxy clusters might hold clues to the problems of dark matter and dark energy.
Natarajan completed her undergraduate degree and did graduate work in the history and philosophy of science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received her PhD from the University of Cambridge (England) in theoretical astrophysics and was elected to a junior research fellowship under Title A at Trinity College, Cambridge. She was a fellow of the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale in 2006–2007. Natarajan has written several popular articles, publishes a monthly newspaper column on astronomy, and serves on the Science Advisory Board of NOVA.