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

University of Trento
  • Measurement of cosmic ray charging of free-falling test masses:
    The interaction of the electrostatic charge on a geodesic reference test mass with any stray electrostatic field is a potential limit to the purity of free-fall at low frequencies. An important measurement for the LISA Pathfinder geodesic explorer mission will be to measure the low frequency fluctuations in the test mass charge due to cosmic ray charging. The summer student will participate in a laboratory test of the in-orbit measurement, with test mass charging measured using a torsion pendulum having a precision better than 1 e/s. The student's main task will be to help run the long term charge measurements, analyze the on-ground measurement noise, and improve the noise model for the in-flight measurement.
    Mentor: Bill Weber
    Related Project 2010: "Development of a Mach-Zehnder interferometer to improve the small torsion pendulum angular readout on the 1TM pendulum"
  • Development of a high-precision torsion pendulum for testing the limits of free-fall:
    The LISA gravitational wave observatory will require that any stray acceleration of the free-falling geodesic reference test masses be smaller than femto-g at frequencies in the range 0.1 to 3 mHz. Verifying this goal on the ground is a challenge that we are addressing with a torsion pendulum used for the measurement of small forces. The student would participate in the development of an advanced torsion pendulum for pushing our measurements of stray force noise close to the LISA goal. Specifically, the student will help integrate a laser interferometric angular readout for the test-mass rotation and then characterize its noise performance in relation to a suspended torsion pendulum.
    Mentor: Bill Weber
    Related Project 2010: "Ground Testing for LISA Test Masses with a Torsion Pendulum"
    Related Project 2012: "Interferometric Angular Sensing for LISA"
  • Simulation of in-orbit noise for the LISA Pathfinder geodesic explorer mission:
    The LISA Pathfinder mission, planned to launch in late 2011, will test the limits to which a test mass can be in perfect free-fall, free of spurious accelerations. The sequence of tests to be performed in-orbit is currently being finalized, as are the algorithms that will be used for analysis. Experimental runs are required to measure the force noise floor under various control scenarios, with dedicated experiments to measure forces arising from magnetic, thermal gradient, and electrostatic charge effects. The student will perform computer simulations of proposed measurement runs, testing the extraction of a force signal against a background of sensor noise and disturbance forces, while modeling the full, closed loop dynamics of the test mass and surrounding satellite.
    Mentor: Stefano Vitale
  • Interpreting transient GW signals from a network of interferometric detectors:
    We are investigating how to interpret the results of a search for transient gravitational wave signals arising from the operation of a network of earth-based interferometric detectors. The summer student would develop methodologies to characterize and fine tune the data analysis. This would include assessing confidence in the results, and reconstructing the direction and waveforms of signals for their astrophysical interpretation.
    Mentor: Giovanni Prodi

Past IREU Projects
Other Prior Projects