Prineha Narang (MS '15, PhD '15), U.S. science envoy for the Department of State and Howard Reiss Chair in Physical Sciences at UCLA, has been elected to Caltech's Board as a Young Alumni Trustee.
An expert on theoretical and computational quantum materials, nonequilibrium dynamics, and transport in quantum matter, Narang previously was an assistant professor of computational materials science at Harvard University, an environmental fellow at the Harvard University Center for the Environment (HUCE), and a research scholar in condensed matter theory in the Department of Physics at MIT. As a graduate student at Caltech, she was a Resnick fellow. Co-advised by Caltech professors Harry Atwater and Bill Goddard, she credits the Institute for sparking her interest in theory and computation.
Narang has received multiple recognitions and special designations, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in Physics, a Maria Goeppert Mayer Award and the Mildred Dresselhaus Prize from the American Physical Society, the Bessel Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, a Max Planck Sabbatical Award from the Max Planck Society, and the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) Young Scientist Prize in Computational Physics. She was named a Moore Inventor Fellow by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and a Top Innovator by MIT Tech Review. She was appointed a U.S. science envoy by the State Department in 2023.
Outside of science, Narang enjoys the mountains, listing Alaska as a favorite destination. She recently summited Mount Rainier and is an avid triathlete and runner.
Here, she discusses her mentors, her career highlights, and her personality.
Tell us about a university professor who was particularly influential in your life.
In addition to my academic advisors [Harry Atwater and Bill Goddard], I want to highlight how the phenomenal women at Caltech have shaped my academic career. Julia Greer and Frances Arnold are a constant inspiration.
What has been your most notable achievement?
I embrace the idea of an academic family, which I picked up from my thesis and postdoctoral advisors. I love helping my students and postdocs succeed, whether that be their first paper, their first conference talk, graduation, or amazing job offers that enable them to establish their own groups. Among my first graduates and postdoctoral scholars, placing rock star women in academic roles is extra special. I keep in touch with former postdocs, discussing challenges they might face and celebrating their successes.
Describe yourself in three words.
Intellectually restless, curious, and adventurous.