As far back as I can remember, I have been irresistibly drawn to puzzles. Whether it is a search for hidden patterns, word games, Sudoku, or logical conundrums, I can’t help but get pulled in; and since no one comes up with better brain teasers than Nature, my love for physics was an inevitable outcome. I gravitate towards fundamental, abstract concepts, so string theory reeled me in. From the instant I first heard of it, I was fascinated by the idea that all the rich diversity of matter and forces in our universe could be manifested by the flutters and oscillations of infinitesimal strings. I obtained my PhD in string theory, becoming the first Pakistani woman to do so, and went on to research the classification of supersymmetric flux backgrounds in 11 dimensions.
As an unexpected side benefit of my academic career, I have been able to indulge my love of travel. I spent a year as a graduate student in Italy before receiving my PhD from Stockholm University, and moving to the U.S to do post-doctoral research at Harvard University. While still a post-doc, I helped establish the LUMS School of Science and Engineering in my hometown Lahore, where I returned as a founding faculty member.
I view creativity as being essential to scientific progress, just as it is to arts. I am fascinated not only by ideas but also by the myriad ways people engage with them, and how both people and ideas are changed by these interactions. These perspectives influence the popular talks I deliver in high school classrooms and to lay audiences, the educational workshops I conduct for science teachers, and my fiction and nonfiction writing. My articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines, both in print and online, I have contributed to anthologies of science writing for adults and children, and am a regular columnist on the award-winning blog www.3quarksdaily.com.
Currently living in Cambridge, MA, I have spent the past few years writing my first novel. A singular pilgrimage across time, Only The Longest Threads, [Paul Dry Books, 2014] reimagines defining moments of discovery when new scientific theories changed our understanding not only of the universe, but also our place in it.