STEM Person of the Month: Dr. Natarajan, a Champion of Astrophysics, Women in STEM, and Gender Equality


The world of STEM is a place of wonder; it provides a venue for individuals of all different backgrounds to come together to solve the world’s most pressing problems. As some of us begin to explore the expansive environment of STEM, we become aware of individuals who are truly unique. They are often incredibly bright and ambitious, but more importantly, they are insatiably curious, and natural leaders.

I have had the pleasure to meet and read about a number of these individuals through my rather short yet compelling journey in the fields of science and technology. In fact, I feel such a passion for the work some of these individuals complete on a daily basis that I feel that I must honor them by sharing their efforts. Thus, I will be starting a section of my blog titled STEM Person of the Month. Without further ado, I will introduce my very first “STEM Person of the Month,” Dr. Priyamvada Natarajan.

Dr. Natarajan is a professor in the Departments of Astronomy and Physics at Yale who attended MIT for undergraduate studies and research, receiving multiple awards for her work. Dr. Natarajan received her Master’s Degree from MIT’s “Program in Science, Technology, and Society” and completed her graduate work in theoretical astrophysics at the University of Cambridge. She would become the first woman at Trinity College to receive a “Title A Fellowship” in Astrophysics from the prestigious University.

Her current research interests include cosmology, gravitational lensing, and black hole physics. A rather interesting study Dr. Natarajan has participated in recently used clusters of galaxies as “astrophysical laboratories.”

Her most recently published articles include Unveiling the First Black Holes with JWST: Multi-wavelength Spectral Predictions, published in The Astrophysical Journal in April of 2017, and Feedback Limits to Maximum Seed Masses of Black Holes, published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters in February of 2017.

Though her credentials and research accomplishments are extensive, these are not the only reasons I chose to highlight Dr. Natarajan. I decided to select her as the “STEM Person of the Month” since she has made a significant impact on social issues that pertain to the world of STEM by working to break boundaries and impassion young minds. In particular, Dr. Natarajan has actively worked to promote STEM and its many fields to women. As the chair of Yale’s Women’s Faculty Forum, she has been both an activist for women in STEM and a proponent of equality for females in the workplace.

Dr. Natarajan has also been an advocate for Women’s rights and gender equality. She has worked to establish gender parity at Yale through events such as the “Parity as Practice: The Politics of Equality” and “Contesting Gender Inequality” conferences.

I got to meet Dr. Natarajan two years ago during a college tour I took visiting Yale University. I had at that time begun to develop an interest in the topics of astrophysics and astronomy. Every time, I would look at the relatively starry sky of North Jersey I would become entranced, not just by the sky’s astonishing beauty, but my realizing that some of the light that I saw was light years old. So when I planned to visit Yale and found out that Dr. Natarajan was teaching a course on cosmology, I had to ask if I could sit in on her class. As I wrote to Dr. Natarajan, I remembered being somewhat apprehensive about writing to someone so esteemed in the science community. However, the kindness, warmth, and passion of the letter I received and the opportunity to sit in on her lecture proved to me that Dr. Natarajan is truly inspirational.

Dr. Natarajan’s hugely positive impact in the field of STEM, her research accomplishments, her commitment to supporting women’s rights and gender parity, and her dedication to teaching young students compelled me to name Dr. Natarajan as the first “STEM Person of the Month.”

For more information about Dr. Natarajan click here.