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Marek Szczepanczyk

Postdoc Appreciation Week at UF

Source: UF News

As part of National Postdoc Appreciation Week (September 19-23), UF highlighted the research of a number of postdoctoral scholars and how they are affecting Florida and the future.  UF’s feature included UF Physics postdoctoral associate, Marek Szczepanczyk, who is presently collaborating with Professor Sergey Klimenko. In the feature, Marek discusses his gravitational wave research and the factors that shaped his interest in astrophysics.

Marek discusses his research after becoming one of the first scientists to discover gravitational waves produced by black hole collisions. “In classical astronomy, astronomers observe the sky using light from stars, galaxies or bright stellar explosions. In the newly formed field of gravitational-wave astronomy, we listen to violent phenomena that do not emit light and cannot be measured by astronomical instruments. The gravitational waves are “ripples of spacetime,” analogously to a stone tossed to a calm water surface, creating ripples propagating in every direction. In 2015, I was one of 1,200 scientists who discovered — for the first time — gravitational waves resulting from a collision of black holes, which have such strong gravity that even light cannot escape them. Since then, we have observed a surprising number of these collided black holes and have also discovered collisions of stars that are extremely dense and heavy. In my field, we observe the sky and achieve a deep understanding of nature. For example, our discoveries finally allowed us to understand how gold was created. We are waiting to detect the inner engine of a spectacular star explosion or even exotic hypothetical objects such as cosmic strings. With every discovery, we are checking whether Einstein is right with his theory of gravity, and so far, all his predictions are correct.”

Marek’s biggest influencer was Albert Einstein himself. Einstein’s theory of space, time and gravity piqued Marek’s curiosity in his younger years. According to Marek, “This curiosity has not yet been satisfied, and likely, it cannot be fulfilled. I am all about gravity and its impact on spacetime. I want to explore experimentally the concepts of the bending of space, slowing or speeding up of time or the ripples of spacetime. I want to work on the homework left by Einstein.”

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