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Personal Profile of Dr. Arlie O. Petters

Dr. Arlie O. Petters
Benjamin Powell Professor
Department of Mathematics

Dr. Arlie O. Petters is the Benjamin Powell Professor of Mathematics and a Professor of Physics and Economics at Duke University, where he has been on the faculty since 1998. At Duke, he served as the Dean of Academic Affairs for Trinity College of Arts & Sciences and Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (2016-2019). Dr. Petters was also a Professor of Business Administration at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business (2008-2016) and the William and Sue Gross Associate Professor of Mathematics (1998-2003). Before coming to Duke, he was an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University (1993-1998) and an Instructor of Pure Mathematics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (1991-1993). Dr. Petters received his Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT in 1991 with a specialization in mathematical physics.

Dr. Petters’ research explores how gravity acts on light. He pioneered the mathematical theory of weak-deflection gravitational lensing, which brought powerful methods from pure mathematics to bear on astronomy. Dr. Petters also advanced applications of gravitational lensing, which included predicting effects that probe the nature of spacetime around black holes and developing tests of Einstein’s general relativity and modified gravity models. He has written five books and is currently co-authoring a monograph on gravitational lensing and black holes.

Among the many awards Dr. Petters has earned for his innovative research are an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and the first Blackwell-Tapia Prize in the Mathematical Sciences. He was also selected in 2006 by the National Academy of Sciences to be part of a Portrait Collection of Outstanding African Americans in Science, Engineering, and Medicine.

Along with being a researcher, Dr. Petters has given back to the African American community and other communities. He has dedicatedly mentored numerous underrepresented minority and majority students, faculty, and professionals, and has consequently received many community-service awards. In recognition of Dr. Petters’ outstanding scientific and educational accomplishments, the Queen of England named him in 2008 to Membership in the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and his birthplace, Dangriga, Belize, honored him in 2009 with a street in his name.

Petters life, research, and outreach work have been profiled in many media outlets, including the New York Times, PBS NOVA, MSNBC, MIT Technology Review, and Channels 5 and 7 News, Belize.

Current/Future Committee Membership
Name Office Start Date End Date
Board of Trustees Feb 24, 2020 Feb 29, 2024
Finance Committee Mar 01, 2020 Feb 29, 2024

Past Committee Membership
Name Office Start Date End Date
Human Resources Advisory Apr 01, 2000 Oct 01, 2000