Arlie Petters Selected as Provost of NYU Abu Dhabi

His selection follows a nine-month long, global search for an academic partner to nurture and advance the University’s educational and research mission

Press Release

NYUAD Vice Chancellor Mariët Westermann today announced the appointment of Dr. Arlie O. Petters - Benjamin Powell Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at Duke University, and former Dean of Academic Affairs for Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Duke - as the Provost of NYU Abu Dhabi, effective September 1, 2020. 

The selection follows a comprehensive, wide-ranging, nine-month global search that sought input from across the NYU community to identify a strategic academic leader who would nurture and advance the educational and research mission and build on NYUAD’s bedrock of excellence. The University’s trajectory of academic success was established by Provost Fabio Piano, who will return to genomics research at the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology in Abu Dhabi and in New York after serving as NYUAD’s provost for the past decade.


“Arlie’s distinguished scholarly qualifications, leadership experience, knowledge of international education, research breadth, commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging, focus on students, deep understanding of academic excellence, and integrity and energy give me great confidence that he will serve the University well in his role as Provost. He will provide outstanding academic leadership as we embark on NYUAD’s second decade of growth and accomplishment. It will be inspiring and rewarding to work with Arlie as we advance our resolutely international model of liberal arts education and address the complex challenges we face today.”

NYUAD Vice Chancellor Mariët Westermann

Petters’ principal research interests include mathematical physics and scientific methods in business administration, with a focus on mathematical finance and entrepreneurship and innovation in STEM fields in developing nations. He 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.

Before joining Duke, Petters served as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University and an Instructor of Pure Mathematics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He received his PhD in mathematics from MIT, and has a BA and MA in mathematics and physics from Hunter College of the City University of New York. 

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. He 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 published fifty articles in peer-reviewed journals as well as five books, including the monograph Singularity Theory and Gravitational Lensing, the textbook An Introduction to Mathematical Finance with Applications, and three problem-solving books on mathematics and scientific reasoning. 

“Within a ten-year span, NYUAD has developed a world-class, innovative liberal arts and sciences undergraduate program and premier interdisciplinary research environment. It has created a collaborative culture of global citizenry among its excellent students, faculty, and staff. It has fostered diversity, inclusion, cultural competency, empathy, and openness. It has become a university in and of the city of Abu Dhabi. This gravitational pull of NYUAD was simply irresistible. I am delighted to serve under Mariët’s amazing leadership driving NYUAD onwards and upwards, to take its place among the world’s great universities.”

NYUAD Provost Arlie O. Petters

Among his many awards and honors 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 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. In addition to his research, Petters has mentored numerous students, faculty, and professionals, and has consequently received many community-service awards. 

In his native Belize, he founded the Petters Research Institute to help develop human capital in STEM fields and foster national development through environmentally sustainable applications of STEM tools in entrepreneurship. In recognition of these contributions, he was made a member in the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2008, and appointed in 2010 as the inaugural Chairman of the Council of Science Advisers to the Prime Minister of Belize. In 2009, his birthplace, Dangriga, Belize, honored him with a street in his name. 

About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and research campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective undergraduate curriculum across the disciplines with a world center for advanced research and scholarship. The university enables its students in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and arts to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from over 115 countries and speak over 115 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.