2017 Group News

December 2016
  • In December, several prestigious honors were announced for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, the team of scientists and engineers involved in the gravitational-wave discovery announced earlier this year. CIERA’s director, Vicky Kalogera, led the astrophysical interpretation of the discovery for the LIGO collaboration. Over the years, her group pioneered ways of making detection source rate predictions and developed methods for extracting information from gravitational-wave signals from binaries of spinning compact objects.
    Read the full story.

    On December 1st and 2nd, Dave Reitze, the Executive Director of LIGO Laboratory at Caltech, visited Northwestern for a series of group meetings, a tour of the Laboratory for Atomic and Photonic Technology, and to present CIERA’s Fall Interdisciplinary Colloquium on the topic of gravitational waves detected by LIGO. Dr. Reitze, Northwestern alumnus class of 1983, met with LIGO Scientific Collaboration members Vicky Kalogera, Shane Larson, Selim Shahriar and several postdocs and students at Northwestern who contributed to the discovery (some of whom are pictured, left). His talk, titled, “Colliding Black Holes & Convulsions in Space-time: The First Observations of Gravitational Waves by LIGO,” included a description of LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory and the “powerful and unique probes of the universe” that LIGO captures.
    Read the Office for Research story.


October 2016
  • LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, is the most sensitive and complex gravitational experiment ever created. When researchers look at the information LIGO receives from the Universe, they also confront the instrumental and environmental noise the observatory picks up. Gravity Spy launched this October, and lets the lay public act as citizen scientists to help categorize noise, or glitches, in the massive amounts of data coming from the detectors here on Earth that first heard gravitational waves. The Gravity Spy team is made up of LIGO researchers within CIERA, LIGO researchers at Cal State Fullerton, machine learning researchers at Northwestern University, crowd-sourced science researchers at Syracuse University, and Zooniverse web developers. Gravity Spy is funded by the NSF INSPIRE 1547880 grant.
    Read the full article here.


September 2016
  • CIERA postdoctoral fellow Laura Sampson is among five female scientists honored with the 2016 For Women in Science Fellowship from L'Oréal USA. The program recognizes exemplary female scientists for their contributions in STEM and their commitment to serving as role models for younger generations. As part of the award, Dr. Sampson will receive $60,000 to advance her postdoctoral research. Along with the other recipients, she will visit the White House, the National Academy of Sciences, a New Jersey public school, and L'Oréal Headquarters.

    Read the full announcement from L'Oréal USA.
    Read the Northwestern News announcement.
    Read about Laura's achievement in the ChicagoInno.


July 2016
  • Dr. Kalogera is hosting and mentoring 14 high school and college students from around the country this summer, who are each working on their own independent research projects. The students are also receiving guidance from CIERA’s Postdoctoral Fellow Chris Pankow, Post-Baccalaureate Research Fellow Scotty Coughlin, and Graduate Student Mike Zevin.

    Front row (left to right): Jason Yang, Sophie Haight, Andrew Kim, Vicky Kalogera, Yuqi Yun, Ben Silverman, Luke Calian, Sam Imperato

    Back Row (left to right): Chris Pankow, Kevin Ensor, Scotty Coughlin, Max Ordonez, Jacob Schultze, Robert Doane-Soloman, Mike Zevin

    Not shown: Ethan Marx, Ahsan Anjum, William Tong


June 2016
  • The LIGO Collaboration announced the second detection of a new pair of colliding black holes by the LIGO detectors. The second detection occurred Dec. 26, 2015, and is known as the “Boxing Day event.”
    Read on for full coverage.


May 2016
  • Yuri Milner, a Russian entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and physicist, is giving $3 million as a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics to honor the scientists and engineers involved in the gravitational-wave discovery announced earlier this year. $1 million will be shared equally by the three LIGO founders, Ronald Drever, Kip Thorne, and Rainer Weiss, and the remaining $2 million will be shared equally by the 1,012 contributors.
    Read the Breakthrough Prize announcement.

    A second prestigious honor, the Gruber Foundation's $500,000 Cosmology Prize, will be conferred to the founders and the entire LIGO team for "pursuing a vision to observe the universe in gravitational waves, leading to a first detection that emanated from the collision of two black holes." The priz citation continues, "This remarkable event provided the first glimpse into the strong-gravity regime of Einstein's theory of general relativity that governs the dynamics of black holes, giving direct evidence for their existence, and demonstrating that their nature is consistent with the predictions of general relativity."
    Read the full press release on the Gruber Cosmology Prize.

    During his undergraduate career at Northwestern, Kyle Kremer combined his love of the planets and music into a dual physics and trumpet degree. Now a graduate student in the Physics & Astronomy department, he brought that love to the broader Northwestern community in the Solar System Symphony concert on May 24th.
    Read the full story.

    Emceed by WBEZ’s Nerdette Podcast hosts Tricia Bobeda and Greta Johnson, five of Chicago’s Arts and Sciences experts, including Vicky Kalogera, got just five minutes to spark imaginations with “en-lightning” ideas on May 10th. Co-hosted by The Phi Beta Kappa Society & The Phi Beta Kappa Association of the Chicago Area and held at the Chicago History Museum, over 200 members of the public enjoyed the talks, which were part of PBK’s Arts & Sciences Cities of Distinction program.
    View the (En)Lightning Talks.


April 2016
  • Graduate student Michael Zevin interacted with about 30 visiting students in two sessions during Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day 2016 at Norris University Center. He explained how much can be learned about our universe using light, even light invisible to humans, and showcased Northwestern’s historic Dearborn Telescope. The students used spectral tubes and diffraction gratings to explore how light can tell us what makes up galaxies billions of lightyears away. Mike also introduced the concept of spacetime and the recent observation of gravitational waves to the young enthusiasts!

    Representatives from the National Science Foundation Mathematical and Physical Sciences (NSF MPS) Directorate came to Northwestern April 21st in a site visit organized by Northwestern’s Office for Research. The directorate is visiting a select number of institutions in 2016 to better understand the scientific opportunities, research landscape, and workforces they impact. Graduate student Niharika Sravan was among the 18 students invited to present posters in the Silverman Hall atrium as part of the visit.
    Read the full story on the NSF Site Visit.

    To celebrate and highlight advanced research computing at Northwestern, the third annual Computational Research Day was held on April 19th. Highlights of the day included presentations from Northwestern researchers, guest speakers, the Visualization Challenge sponsored by NVIDIA and a poster session sponsored by CIERA and NICO (Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems). Physics and Astronomy graduate students Niharika Sravan and Mike Zevin presented posters. Mike took home the first prize of $1500 toward the conference of his choice for his poster on Gravity Spy and LIGO.
    Read the full story on Computational Research Day.


February 2016
  • The National Science Foundation and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration have announced that their scientists have successfully, for the first time, directly detected gravitational waves - or ripples in the fabric of spacetime - using the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO). Learn why this discovery is important.

    Through their dedicated research, CIERA faculty, postdocs, graduate and undergraduate students contributed to this momentous scientific discovery!

    Go to the full Northwestern News Special Feature.
    Read an interview with Vicky Kalogera from only one year ago with her thoughts about the search for gravitational waves.
    Watch the 5 minute video in which Vicky Kalogera and Shane Larson explain the discovery.
    Read the astrobites post by Mike Zevin. Astrobites is an online journal written by astronomy graduate students.
    Learn more about LIGO, the collaboration of more than 1000 scientists worldwide who joined together in the search for gravitational waves.
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