25-year-old scientist from Quetta took part in discovery of gravitational waves

Published: February 15, 2016
Imran Khan PHOTO: 


After Pakistan-born scientist Dr Nergis Mavalvala made waves for being a member of the team of scientists that discovered gravitational waves (ripples in space and time hypothesised by physicist Albert Einstein a century ago), it has emerged another Pakistani was also part of the team.

Imran Khan from Quetta has been known to have worked with a team of scientists at Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) that recorded gravitational waves for the first time in history.

The 25-year-old, a graduate of FAST, worked with Gran Sasso Science Institute (GSSI), one of the institutions involved in the research.

Pakistan-born scientist played part in discovery of gravitational waves

Among the 1,004 researchers from 133 scientific institutions all over the world, the GSSI contributed to the scientific breakthrough with eight researchers, including some of the youngest coauthors of the Physical Review Letters paper. “The ‘discovery of the century’, as it is already called, has also the signature of the GSSI, which contributed with 8 coauthors, six of which are young researchers from Italy, China, India and Pakistan,” the GSSI said.

The detection, announced on Thursday, confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.

Pakistan-born scientist Professor Mavalvala worked with researchers at the US-based underground detectors Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) Laboratory to build sophisticated  sensors to detect gravitational ripples created from the collision of two black holes some 1.3 billion years ago and had been hurtling through space to reach Earth on September 14, 2015.

Scientists glimpse Einstein’s gravitational waves

Dr Mavalvala, 47, was born to a Parsi family in Karachi where she did her primary schooling.

During her graduation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) she started working on gravitational waves – which would lead her to one of the biggest discoveries of the century.  But the tale was not so simple.

In essence, her work on gravitational waves has spanned for over 20 years leading up to the discovery.

“The big picture mission drives you. When you work in the lab, [it’s like] you bang your head against the wall for weeks at a time, working on a state-of-the-art circuit, for example,” Mavalvala told MIT’s site in 2014. “Yet this is what enables scientific discovery, when the smaller to bigger pieces of experiments succeed, when the whole thing does what it is supposed to, and then you hope nature gives you the event you’ve been waiting for.”

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Feb 15, 2016 - 1:55PM

    He is inspiration for us. Thumbs upRecommend

  • Feb 15, 2016 - 2:12PM

    There are 4 Pakistanis in the list. Please find the other 2 as well. I am trying my best too. Nevertheless, a great achievement. Pakistan Zindabad.Recommend

  • Asma
    Feb 15, 2016 - 2:26PM

    He is from Peshawar not Quetta, yet an achievement to be proud of! (y)Recommend

  • waqas rabbani
    Feb 15, 2016 - 2:34PM

    I wish people would understand the significance of this discovery, this rush to claim this achievement is understandable, but instead of just running towards claiming it, one could also break down the situation and explain what it actually means and how it changes our perception about reality and spacetime.Recommend

  • Dr. Omar Khan
    Feb 15, 2016 - 3:32PM

    the gentleman is a batch-07 student of FAST-Peshawar (telecom engineering), he may belong to quetta nevertheless. Recommend

  • Haji Atiya
    Feb 15, 2016 - 4:29PM

    Wow, suddenly every second scientist from Pakistan took part in discovering gravitrons !Recommend

  • Malik Saab
    Feb 15, 2016 - 4:42PM

    I have worked with many institutes that worked on groundbreaking research, but i cannot claim to be a part of such discoveries. Working in such institutions does not make me a custodian of the research in those institutes. I think our media is just going in overdrive mode. This guy just worked in one of those research institutes. He is not a part of that team.
    There are more than 900 researches who are behind this discovery, but his name do not appear anywhere. Am i missing something or what?Recommend

  • Asif
    Feb 15, 2016 - 7:06PM

    Good to hear involvement of Pakistani national with LIGO. But we need to be realistic, this is nothing compared to work of Dr. Salam (no, I am not from his community).
    The experiment was proposed when Dr. Nargis was doing her B.S. and LIGO-1 was up and running when she was still working on her PhD. while remaining people are much younger.
    I look forward to hearing these and other of Pakistan heritage/ancestry scientist becoming a Principal Investigators in their respective area of expertise.Recommend

  • Naveed Abbasi
    Feb 15, 2016 - 7:14PM

    @Malik Saab, he is a good friend of mine, a genuine hardworking person. He was actually a part of the research team as is established on the institute website as well. He studied in Peshawar but is from Quetta originally. Please appreciate our local talents since that might motivate more people.Recommend

  • Jibran
    Feb 16, 2016 - 12:18AM

    @Naveed Abbasi:
    He was the errand boy.Recommend

  • Babur Khan
    Feb 16, 2016 - 5:07AM

    He is from Quetta but did his Bachelors in Peshawar at FAST. He was my batch mate thereRecommend

  • Gurion
    Feb 16, 2016 - 4:17PM


    He was the errand boy

    Don’t be such a racist. He could also be the cabbie for all we knowRecommend

  • BlackHat
    Feb 16, 2016 - 11:45PM

    @Jibran: You may call him an errand boy, at least he was a Pakistani. The other one was a zaorastrian! Recommend

  • zeeshan
    Feb 17, 2016 - 1:02AM

    he is from Quetta not from Peshawar.Recommend

  • Anon
    Feb 18, 2016 - 4:01PM

    @Haji Atiya:
    And does that bother you?Recommend

  • Anon
    Feb 18, 2016 - 4:03PM

    How low can u beRecommend

  • Stayameva Jayate
    Feb 20, 2016 - 12:09AM

    He is not even among the 100s of scientists who were directly involved with the labs that made the observation.
    Imran Khan is just ampng the nine early-stage researchers, funded by the EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, who co-signed a paper on the detection of gravitational waves.Recommend

  • Waqas ahmed
    Feb 25, 2016 - 8:03PM

    Those who introduce ideas innovations should be appreciated but here room is full of negativity .
    Might be possible you would have been one of LIGO member if you could think on concerned thing rather than this debate either he was involved or not.Recommend

  • Anon
    Feb 26, 2016 - 11:39AM

    @Waqas ahmed:
    Totally agree with you.
    Every time there is such a discussion instead of appreciation it turns into a fight and mockery. I believe people who do this have a very sad life. Be happy for others – it automatically comes back to you.Recommend

  • Sajid khan
    Mar 13, 2016 - 5:57PM

    The contribution of Pakistani Scientist is highly commendable. There are lot of Pakistani scientist involved in sophisticated n advanced research in many fields. It will be highly appreciable if we have data of these at national level so that our young scientist n Engineers may get access to advance education n lab facilities. Pakistan Zindabaad.Pakistani Scientists scholars Zindabaad.Recommend

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