L Mahadevan did his undergraduate studies at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras and continued his graduate work at Stanford University, where he obtained his PhD in 1995. He started his independent career at MIT, and soon after he was elected the inaugural holder of the Schlumberger Chair in Complex Physical Systems at Cambridge University, and simultaneously a Professorial Fellow in Natural Sciences at Trinity College. Since the fall of 2003, he has been at Harvard University, where he is the England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Professor of Physics.
His work centers around the theoretical and experimental exploration of the patterns of shape and flow in living and nonliving matter, on scales that range from DNA and graphene to organismal morphogenesis and plate tectonics. He has been the recipient of many honors including the Edgerton award at MIT (2000), the Ledlie Prize at Harvard (2006), a Chaire Condorcet at the Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris (2001), a Visiting Miller Professorship at the University of California, Berkeley (2007), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2006), a MacArthur Fellowship (2009-14), and a Radcliffe Fellowship (2014-15).