Monica Valluri, a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Astronomy, has been honored with the U-M Research Faculty Achievement Award for her outstanding research and teaching career in theoretical galaxy dynamics. She uses numerical calculations and simulations to probe galactic phenomena, including supermassive black holes and dark matter halos,two types of invisible matter whose presence is inferred primarily from their gravitational effects on stars and other visible matter.
Valluri earned a Ph.D. in astrophysics at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, did postdoctoral research at Columbia University and Rutgers University, and joined the U-M faculty in 2007.
In addition to developing a more accurate method to determine the masses of SMBH, Valluri has transformed our understanding of galactic bars — elongated cigar-shaped clusters of orbiting stars that exist in many spiral galaxies, including the Milky Way. She demonstrated the traditional view of how stars move in bars is incomplete and that neglecting the effects of galactic bars can cause large errors in the measurement of black hole masses and host galaxy properties. Her work soon will be applied to data being gathered by the European Space Agency’s Gaia space observatory and is expected to verify or refute important predictions of the dominant paradigm regarding the nature of dark matter.
Valluri has published 42 journal articles. In addition to creating and teaching undergraduate astronomy and earth and space science courses, Valluri has taught at the Michigan Math and Science Scholars camp for high school students on a number of occasions. She has served on five doctoral committees and mentored 17 undergraduates. She also founded and organizes Conversations on Equity and Inclusion in Astrophysics and has served on the astronomy department’s curriculum committee and Michigan Institute for Research in Astrophysics planning committee. Valluri is chair of the American Astronomical Society Division of Dynamical Astronomy and a member of the Astronomical Society of India and International Astronomical Union.
With information from the record.umich.edu