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

Monash University
  • Inferring the properties of primordial black holes with gravitational waves:
    Around every 200 seconds, a pair of stellar mass black holes merge somewhere in the Universe. A small fraction of these mergers are detected as individually resolvable gravitational-wave events by detectors such as advanced LIGO and Virgo. The rest contribute to a stochastic background. Observing this gravitational-wave background will allow us to study black holes at redshifts much higher than at which LIGO/Virgo could resolve individual sources. Some of the black holes observed by LIGO/Virgo may be “primordial” black holes, formed in regions of high density in the early universe rather than through stellar collapse. There has been renewed interest in primordial black holes as a candidate for dark matter since the first observation of gravitational waves from binary black hole mergers. This project will explore our ability to extract information about primordial black holes from the gravitational wave background using current and planned detectors.
    Mentor: Rory Smith
  • Ensemble gravitational wave detections: more than the sum of the parts:
    Gravitational-wave astronomy is now a reality. In February 2016, LIGO announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves from the collision of two black holes, each with mass approximately 30 times that of the Sun. From the first observing run of Advanced LIGO, two bona fide detections were made of binary black hole mergers, and one further candidate detection. These detections allow us to predict the event rate of future detections given the planned improvement in instrument sensitivity. The future is very bright with tens to hundreds of detections expected in the next two or three years. In this project, we will explore physics that can be learned from an ensemble of gravitational wave detections that cannot be learned from any given detection. For example, we recently published a paper (see "Detecting Gravitational-Wave Memory with LIGO: Implications of GW150914" in PRL or the arXiv) showing that gravitational-wave memory — a permanent deformation of spacetime following the emission of gravitational waves — can be detected confidently once approximately 30 loud binary black hole mergers have been detected with Advanced LIGO. Potential projects involve looking for deviations from General Relativity in ultra-strong gravitational fields or trying to understand how these stellar-mass black holes formed in the first place.
    Mentors: Paul Lasky, Yuri Levin and Eric Thrane
  • Optimizing gravitational-wave optical counterpart searches with multiple telescopes:
    With gravitational waves (GWs) securely detected, the hunt is now for their electromagnetic counterparts. At Monash, we?re involved in a new, small-scale telescope dedicated to finding the optical counterparts to GWs; in the future, we may have multiple such telescopes, and we?re looking into optimizing the searches for counterparts using multiple telescopes. This project involves the optimization of this scheduling problem with the use of genetic algorithms, and the determination of the cases where this approach yields the most benefit.
    Mentors: Evert Rol and Duncan Galloway

Past IREU Projects
Other Prior Projects