International Summer Research Program in Gravitational-Wave Physics:
Research Experiences for Undergraduates around the world



University of Glasgow
  • Astrophysics with gravitational wave transients:
    The first detection of gravitational waves will herald the dawn of gravitational wave astronomy and will provide a new way of exploring our universe complimenting existing astronomical observations. This project will explore the use of Bayesian inference to extract astrophysical information about gravitational wave progenitors. Sources studied include binary black hole mergers and supernovae. The project will also investigate methods for learning about the host environment of gravitational wave sources as well as combining astrophysical information with gravitational wave signals for joint observations.
    Mentor: Ik Siong Heng
  • Related Project 2015: "Improving Accuracy of Precessing Binary Black Hole Waveform Templates Using Gaussian Process Regression"
  • Material properties of ion-beam coatings:
    Ion-beam coatings are used to tailor the reflectivity of mirrors in interferometric gravitational wave detectors. The thermal noise in these coatings will limit the performance of future gravitational wave detectors such as Advanced LIGO. The thermal noise is a function of material parameters such as thermal conductivity, linear expansion coefficient, and Youngs modulus of the coating materials. The student will assess technqiues for studying these properties, then carry out measurements of different ion-beam coatings to optimize the coating procedures.
    Mentors: Iain Martin, Sheila Rowan
    Related Project 2008: "Ellipsometry, Optical Spectrum Analyser and Atomic Force Microscope:  measuring surface layer properties"
    Related Project 2009: "Loss Processes at Elevated Temperature"
    Related Project 2010: "Loss Measurements of Waveguide Grating Cantilevers"
    Related Project 2011: "Determining thermal noise limiting properties of thin films"
    Related Project 2012: "Material Properties of Ion Beam Coatings for use in Gravitational Wave Interferometers"
    Related Project 2015: "Mechanical Loss and Deposition of Mirror Coatings on Silica"
  • Silica fibers:
    Silica fibers are used to suspend the mirrors of current (GEO600) and future gravitational wave detectors (Advanced LIGO and Virgo). Together, these fibers and mirrors form monolithic suspension systems with extremely low internal mechanical losses. This construction results in a very low suspension thermal noise and is essential for the success of the Advanced detectors.
    The Institute for Gravitational Research has a fiber pulling facility which involves heating the silica stock with a 100W Carbon Dioxide laser and pulling the fiber with computer controlled DC motors. The profile of the drawn fibers can be measured and the fibers can be subsequently destructively tested in a safe environment. This project would focus on the optimum strategy to pre-treat and pull fibers in order to obtain high breaking strength. Aspects to consider would include the effects of laser polishing, the required amount of heat input during drawing and the effect of humidity on the final breaking strength. It is envisaged that large numbers of fibers will be produced in order to provide statistical analysis of the preferred production method.
    Mentor: Giles Hammond
    Related Project 2013: "Measuring The Shear Modulus of CO2 Laser-Drawn Fused Silica Fibers"
    Related Project 2014: "The properties of very thin silica fibers for use in precision measurement experiments"
  • Charge noise:
    Noise due to electrostatic charge is a potential low frequency noise source for interferometric gravitational wave detectors. With the Advanced LIGO detectors comprising a lower monolithic stage of fused silica (40kg optics suspended by four fused silica fibres) it is important to quantify and mitigate any excess charge on the optic. Charge noise could potentially arise from the motion, or hopping, of charge on the surface of the fused silica or due to time dependent image charges which are induced by motion of grounded structures around the optic.
    Over the last 3 years we have been developing (i) a scanning Kelvin probe to provide 2-D surface maps of charge, (ii) a glow discharge technique to mitigate charge and (iii) a highly sensitive torsion balance to measure force noise due to charge.
    Possible projects include the study of charge noise and research in one of the areas described above. There are excellent opportunities to develop experimental skills in vacuum techniques, mechanical design and fabrication, Labview programming, servo control and optimisation, low noise measurements and the development of electronic circuits.
    Mentor: Giles Hammond
  • Related Project 2008: "Vacuum Kelvin Force Probe Research"
    Related Project 2009: "Kelvin Probe Charging Research: A look at test mass charging problems in the field of gravitational-­wave interferometry"

Past Projects: University of Glasgow
  • Probing properties of binary black hole mergers using numerical relativity waveforms and Bayesian methods:
    Many breakthroughs been made in modelling binary black hole mergers over the last few years. However, there are still some systems (eg. non-aligned, precessing mergers) that pose a challenge due to the number of degrees of freedom in these simulations. Therefore, it is not straightfoward to characeterise and study these systems. This data analysis project will test different analysis techniques developed for Burst gravitational wave detection and characterise their performance for different binary black hole merger waveforms. Methods for distinguishing between waveforms from simulations with different physical properties and studying various aspects of numerical simulations of binary black hole mergers will also be investigated.
    Mentor: Ik Siong Heng
  • Related Project 2014: "Developing the Astronomy of Black Hole Mergers with Gravitational Waves"
  • Model selection and data quality:
    In gravitational wave detectors, it is important to identify transients from local environmental sources and exclude them from being candidate gravitational waves. If the detector is suffering from a constant noise source of a transient nature, one can identify the characteristics of this population of noise transients. Information about the transient noise population can then be used remove these transients from gravitational wave searches or diagnose problems in the detector hardware.
    This project will involve the use of pre-existing Matlab code to identify transient populations in gravitational wave data. Investigations into the effects of the transient populations on gravitational wave searches will also be performed.
    Mentor: Ik Siong Heng
  • Related Project 2011: "Model selection and data quality for core-collapse supernova waveform simulations"
    Related Project 2012: "Modeling Unexplained Noise in GEO600 Data"


Past IREU Projects
Other Prior Projects