Laurel White Participating in Research with Syracuse Gravitational-Wave Group

January 17, 2019
  For the past year and a half, I have been conducting research with the Syracuse Gravitational-Wave Group in the physics department. My work is in detector characterization for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). Gravitational-wave astronomy is a developing field that allows us to detect minute changes in spacetime caused by the collision of massive objects like black holes and neutron stars that are billions of lightyears away. The LIGO Scientific Collaboration operates two detectors that they use to look for gravitational-wave signals, and the process of detector characterization involves analyzing data in order to determine how to improve both the detectors and the data collection process. I have worked on several projects relating to identifying and finding solutions for noise sources that are picked up by the extremely sensitive LIGO detectors, polluting the data. Most recently, I have been developing a calculation that will reduce the impact of a certain type of noise on the search for gravitational-wave signals during the upcoming data collection run. My research has allowed me to collaborate with a supportive group of researchers from SU and other universities across the country. I have also shared my research with fellow scientists both within and outside of LIGO. I was able to travel to Washington state for a week while working as a summer research assistant to visit the Hanford Observatory and present my research at the July 2018 Face-to-Face Meeting of the LIGO detector characterization group. I also gave a presentation on my summer project at the 2018 Meredith Symposium here at SU and won funding that I plan to use to present at an upcoming meeting of the American Physical Society. My experience with LIGO has given me a foundation in research that I will use for my Capstone project, allowed me to apply for fellowships and national scholarships, and, above all, prepared me for the type of work that I will be doing in graduate school.