Keynote Address: Professor Nergis Mavalvala

Curtis and Kathleen Marble Professor of Astrophysics
Associate Department Head of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Excerpted from website:

Professor Mavalvala's research focuses on interferometric Gravitational Waves and Quantum Measurement. The major U.S. effort in this field is LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory), scheduled to come on the air in 2002. The gravitational waves that LIGO and its international counterparts expect to detect are ripples in the spacetime fabric caused by the motion of compact, massive astrophysical objects. Since the nature of gravitation is inherently different from electromagnetism, gravitational wave astrophysics has the potential of providing a radically different view of the universe, including direct observation of massive dark matter, large-scale nuclear matter and a test of strong-field gravitation.

The greatest challenge facing current detectors is achieving a sensitivity that is commensurate with the signal strengths expected from typical sources, such as coalescing neutron star binaries. In its first incarnation, LIGO is expected to reach a strain sensitivity of 10-21 at 100 Hz. Difficulties in estimating gravitational wave strain from astrophysical objects based on observations made using the electromagnetic spectrum further highlight the need for improved sensitivity in the near future.

Consequently, even as the initial LIGO detectors begin operation, research and development for second-generation detectors is underway. Advanced LIGO detectors may be installed as early as 2006. In addition, a space-based gravitational- wave interferometer-the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) - is planned for launch in 2011. All of these developments present unique and diverse opportunities in this young field. Professor Mavalvala's research activities, in collaboration with the LIGO group at MIT, will include instrument development, precision measurements at fundamental quantum limits, and data analysis.

Professor Nergis Mavalvala joined the Physics faculty at MIT in January 2002. Before that, she was a postdoctoral associate and then a research scientist at Caltech, working on the Laser Interferometric Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO). She has been involved with LIGO since her early years in graduate school at MIT and her primary research has been in instrument development for interferometric gravitational-wave detectors. Professor Mavalvala received a Ph.D. in Physics from MIT in 1997, and a B.A. in Physics and Astronomy from Wellesley College in 1990. She was appointed Associate Department Head of Physics, effective February 1, 2015.


Plenary Speaker: Professor Marcela Carena

Marcela Carena is a distinguished scientist and the head of the Theoretical Physics Department  at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois. She received her Diploma in Physics from the Instituto Balseiro of Bariloche, Argentina, and her Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Hamburg.  She was a John Stuart Bell Fellow at CERN, was awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship, and she was a CERN staff member in 1999-2000. She has been a Professor of Physics at the University of Chicago since 2008, where she is both a member of the Enrico Fermi Institute and the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics.

Her research explores the possible connections between Higgs physics, supersymmetry, unification, and dark matter. She has developed promising ideas to explain the matter-antimatter asymmetry observed in the universe, which are under scrutiny at the CERN Large Hadron Collider. Carena has worked closely with experimental physicists, creating and implementing strategies for testing the latest ideas for the mechanism of electroweak symmetry breaking. She was a pioneer in exploring the complementary interplay between direct searches for dark matter in deep underground experiments and searches for Higgs bosons at the LHC.

Carena has been a fellow of the American Physical Society since 2002. In 2010 she won a Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany, and in 2013 she was a Simons Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics. She is at present actively involved in developing agreements with European and Latin American countries to facilitate the collaboration between Fermilab and  international institutions in projects of common interest, in particular, the exciting international Long Baseline Neutrino Facility/Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (LBNF/DUNE).



Plenary Speaker: Professor Elizabeth H. Simmons

Dr. Elizabeth H. Simmons is Dean of Lyman Briggs College, University Distinguished Professor of Physics, and Associate Provost for Faculty and Academic Staff Development at Michigan State University.  Lyman Briggs is a four-year residential undergraduate college at MSU that focuses on the study of science in historical, philosophical, and sociological context.  A theoretical particle physicist, Simmons studies the origins of the masses of the elementary subatomic particles and the possibility that new forces and matter particles could lie within reach of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. She enjoys teaching physics at every level, from freshman to graduate, incorporating active and cooperative pedagogical methods into all of her courses. Central to her mission as an educator is encouraging more students (especially from groups now under-represented in physics) to consider studies and careers in the physical sciences.  She is a co-author of the recent APS report LGBT Climate in Physics and co-organizer of the Career Development for Women Physicists conference series at ICTP, Trieste. 



Plenary Speaker: Dr. Meghan Anzelc

VP, Predictive Analytics Program Lead, Zurich North America

Meghan Anzelc is the Predictive Analytics Program Lead for Zurich North America, leading a team of analytics professionals in the US and Slovakia to deliver predictive analytics solutions to business problems across General Insurance and Claims in North America.

Prior to joining Zurich in 2015, Meghan previously held roles in pricing and predictive analytics at CNA and in predictive modeling at Travelers, leading teams to provide analytical solutions for commercial and personal insurance products.

Meghan holds a Bachelors degree in physics from Loyola University Chicago and a Masters and PhD in physics from Northwestern. She has participated in numerous initiatives focused on providing relevant guidance on career planning and professional development, both to insurance professionals as well as to graduate students and post-doctoral scholars in the sciences and math.



Panel Speaker: Dr. Crystal Bailey

Careers Program Manager, American Physical Society

Dr. Crystal Bailey is the Careers Program Manager at the American Physical Society (APS) in College Park, MD.  Crystal works on several projects which are geared towards marketing physics and physics career information to high school students, undergraduates, graduate students and physics professionals.  Some of her principle projects include the Physics InSight slideshow, Future of Physics Days Events for undergraduates at the APS annual meetings, the APS Job Board and Job Fair, APS Webinars, and maintaining resources on the APS Careers Website.  She also devotes significant amounts of time to planning career workshops and other professional development related activities to support early-career physicists and helps manage the activities of the APS Committee on Careers and Professional Development.

Before coming to the APS, Dr. Bailey did research in nuclear physics at Indiana University, Bloomington in the area of few-body systems.  In 2008 she received the Konopinski Award for Outstanding Graduate Teaching from the IU Physics Department.  She graduated with her PhD from IU in 2009.



Panel Speaker: Dr. Heather Dillaway

Professor of Sociology and Associate Dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Wayne State University

Heather Dillaway is Professor of Sociology and Associate Dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Wayne State. Before joining Wayne State in 2002, she received her PhD at Michigan State University. Dr. Dillaway regularly teaches about diversity issues and, in particular, social inequalities based on gender and race. Her research is focused primarily on women's reproductive health, aging, disability, and health disparities. 



Panel Speaker: Dr. Gillian Ryan

Gillian Lynn Ryan is an Assistant Professor of Physics at Kettering University in Flint, MI, where she teaches a wide range of physics courses for undergraduate students and mentors undergraduate student researchers. Gillian’s research focuses primarily on the application of statistical physics to biological systems, using computational tools such as image analysis and stochastic simulations to capture the complexities of phenomena such as protein organization within eukaryotic cells and the effects of branching and mutation rates on tree growth.

Before joining the faculty at Kettering in 2013 Gillian was a postdoctoral researcher at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. Gillian holds a Bachelor’s degree (2004) in physics from St. Francis Xavier University, NS, Canada, as well as Masters (2006) and PhD (2010) degrees in physics from Dalhousie University, also in NS, Canada.