Gravitational waves were first detected in 2015 by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO). This signal, named GW150914, was produced when two black holes collided about 1.3 billion years ago. Since then, we have detected a total of 10 signals from the merger of black holes and two signals from the collisions of neutron stars. One of these signals, GW170817, was also observed across the electromagnetic spectrum making it the first multi-messenger (electromagnetic and gravitational waves) observation.
The gravitational-wave group is part of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC), which consists of around 1200 researchers from over 100 different institutes from across the world. As part of the LSC we are searching for gravitational waves from colliding black holes and neutron stars, as well as other sources. In addition to detection, the group’s research focusses on developing techniques to detect gravitational waves from new sources, detecting gravitational waves from continuous sources, estimating the equation of state of neutron stars, and characterising the LIGO detectors. Our research also looks at extracting astrophysical and cosmological information from the observed gravitational-wave signals to learn more about our Universe.
As well as studying gravitational waves, our group is also involved in the Gravitational-wave Optical Transient Observer (GOTO). The project's primary objective to identify optical counterparts to gravitational-wave events. GOTO consists of multiple wide-field telescopes on a single mount; currently there are 4 located in La Palma covering ~18 square degrees. Soon, we will add more telescopes in La Palma to bring the total up 16. We are also in the process of building another GOTO in Australia.
I received an MPhys in Physics, Astrophysics and Cosmology from Lancaster University in 2009, as well as the chancellor’s medal. I then moved to Cardiff University to study gravitational waves and work in the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. My graduate research focussed on electromagnetic follow-up of gravitational-wave events; I received my PhD in 2013. I then moved to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where my research diversified to characterising the Advanced LIGO detectors. In 2015 I continued my doctoral research at Syracuse University, researching the application of data quality to the search for gravitational waves from the merger of compact objects. In 2017 I returned to Cardiff University as a Sêr Cymru MSCA COFUND Fellow. I then moved to the ICG as a senior lecturer in August 2018 to start a gravitational-wave research group with Andy Lundgren and Ian Harry.
My research focusses on a number of areas of gravitational-wave astronomy, but in particular:
- Characterisation of the LIGO gravitational-wave detectors
- Extracting gravitational-wave signals from LIGO/Virgo data, particularly those from compact object mergers
- Observations of electromagnetic counterparts to gravitational-wave events with GOTO
I have held and still hold and number of roles within the gravitational-wave community. Highlights include:
- Co-chair of LIGO Detector Characterisation (2019 - present)
- Portsmouth PI for GOTO (2019 - present)
- Dignity & Respect Champion for the ICG (2018 - present)
- Outreach and Engagement Champion for the ICG (2018 - present)
- Member of LIGO-Virgo Collaboration Allies (2016 - present)
- Member of the LSC Program Committee (2018 - 2019)
- Member of the GWOSC Review Committee (2015 - 2019)
- Co-chair of Data Quality for the LIGO Detector Characterisation Group (2015 - 2019)
- 2018-2020 - Universe - Planetary systems, stars and galaxies (Second Year)
I am available and happy to discuss and/or answer any questions about my research.