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Members of the Nicholas and Lee Begovich Center for Gravitational-Wave Physics and Astronomy (GWPAC) presented their research on a variety of gravitational-wave topics at two of this year's major physics meetings: the American Physical Society Meeting and the March LIGO-Virgo-KAGRA Collaboration Meeting.

GWPAC alumni were also well represented at the meetings, with talks and posters by Elenna Capote, Daniel Vander-Hyde, and Erik Muniz (Syracuse PhD students), Nick Demos (MIT PhD student), and Matt Giesler (Caltech PhD graduate, Cornell postdoc).   

Below is a summary of the presentations given by current GWPAC members.

APS April 2021 Meeting: 

  • Teresita Ramirez: Analyzing properties from black hole-neutron star merger outflows and modeling r-process nucleosynthesis, 
  • Dr. Geoffrey Lovelace: Progress toward the first simulations of binary black holes holes with SpECTRE, 
  • Marlo Morales : Calculating apparent-horizon quantities with SpECTRE, a next-generation numerical relativity code,
  • Samuel Rodriguez: Boundary Conditions in numerical models of Brownian coating thermal noise of gravitational-wave detector mirrors,
  • Sierra Thomas:  Testing the Accuracy of Gravitational Waveforms Computed with SpECTRE,
  • Alex, Macedo: SpECTRE's C++ tensor expression interface,
  • Marc Penuliar: Neutron Star Masses and GW190425,
  • Dr. Philippe Landry: Distinguishing the Nature of the Lighter Compact Object in the Binary Merger,
  • Jennifer Sanchez:  Exploring the impact of higher-order modes on inferring source properties from gravitational-wave observations,

March 2021 LIGO-Virgo-Kagra Meeting:

  • Alex Gruson: Cosmic Explorer: A Next-Generation Gravitational-Wave Observatory,
  • Amy Gleckl: In-Vacuum Measurements of Optical Scatter Versus Annealing Temperature for Amorphous Ta2O5 and TiO2:Ta2O5 Thin Films,
  • Mike Rezac: Developing an In-Air Annealing Experiment,

Additionally, Amy Gleckl and Alex Gruson's posters garnered honorable mention best LVK posters for their poster presentations. 

GWPAC is extremely proud of its students and alumni and their work in these meetings. 

Slide Image Credit: This image was modified from the version used for the APS meeting described here . 

GWPAC students Amy Gleckl, Samuel Rodriguez, Erick Leon, Teresa Ramirez, Isabella Molina, Derek White, Eric FLynn, Denyz Melchor and Jazlyn Guerrero, postdoctoral associate Marissa Walker and professors Josh Smith and Geoffrey Lovelace attended the March 2019 LIGO-Virgo Meeting held at the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva.


During the meeting GWPAC members made progress on neutron star astrophysics, working with collaborators from the Rochester Institute of technology, on thermal noise calculations with faculty from American University and Hobart William and Smith Colleges, and on black hole simulations with collaborators from Caltech and Cornell. 

lvc lunch
GWPAC students grab a quick lunch between sessions.

Marissa Walker presented a well-recieved tutorial for students and postdocs on how to use LIGO software to diagnose periods of poor data quality in the instruments, "LAAC Tutorial: Introduction to detector characterization." Former GWPAC students Daniel Vander-Hyde (Syracuse) and Thomas Abbott (LSU) presented work toward their PhDs at the meeting as well. 

GWPAC also had a big impact on the poster session, with the following student-led posters: 

  • Does annealing cause micro-crystals growth in LIGO optics? - Amy Gleckl and Jazlyn Guerrero *Winners of a $150 prize!*
  • Neutron Star Measurements in Third Generation Gravitational Wave Observatories - Isabella Molina, Erick Leon, Eric Flynn
  • The LIGO/Virgo Binary-Black-Hole Orrery - Teresa Ramirez
  • Numerical Simulation Infrastructure for Gravitational Wave Data Analysis - Derek White
  • Parameter Estimation of Gravitational Waves from Binary Neutron Star Mergers Using LALInference - Erick Leon
  • Inferring the binary black hole population redshift distribution - Denyz Melchor
  • Numerically calculating the thermal noise of mirror coatings with multiple loss angles - Samuel Rodriguez
Jazlyn and Amy poster
For their poster on experimental optics research at CSUF, Amy Gleckl and Jazlyn Guerrero won the collaboration-wide poster prize of $150 for best experimental poster. 

The meeting had a general buzz of excitement about LIGO, Virgo and KAGRA's participation in the third observing run (O3) that will begin April 1, 2019 and what discoveries the gravitational-wave skies will provide through our significantly more sensitive detectors. There was also great progress toward a roadmap for the next generation of gravitational-wave detectors envisioned for the 2030s. 

Jocelyn Read leads LIGO's Extreme Matter group and has been central in the gravitational-wave community's exploration of the matter involved in the neutron-star merger known as GW170817, measured by LIGO and Virgo in 2017. The team's research was described today, including a quote from Jocelyn, in the Scientific American article "Gravitational Waves Reveal the Heart of Neutron Stars."

This article arrives on the heels of Jocelyn visiting New York City and Palm Springs to discuss the results at three venues.

Jocelyn Read
Jocelyn Read speaks at Columbia University’s Center for Theoretical Physics.

She was part of a four-person panel, each among the foremost experts in gravitational-wave astrophysics, discussing "A Merger in Space: Black Holes And Neutron Stars" at the NYU Grand Hall, as part of the Big Ideas Series (supported in part by the John Templeton Foundation) and the World Science Festival.  

She also spoke at the workshop "Nuclear astrophysics in the new era of multi-messenger astronomy," which was organized by Annals of Physics and took place at Columbia University’s Center for Theoretical Physics on 30 and 31 May, also in collaboration with the World Science Festival. 

And over the weekend, she gave a plenary presentation at the Thirteenth Conference on the Intersections of Particle and Nuclear Physics in Palm Springs, CA. 

Great work on understanding neutron star matter by Jocelyn and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and Virgo!

The Gravitational-Wave Physics and Astronomy Center (GWPAC) at California State University Fullerton welcomes applications for a Postdoctoral Associate in Gravitational-Wave Physics. GWPAC faculty members include Al Agnew, Geoffrey Lovelace, Jocelyn Read, and Director Joshua Smith. Its research projects include searches for binary systems with black holes and neutron stars with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), characterization of the LIGO detectors, waveform modeling including analytical solutions for neutron stars with realistic equations of state, modes and tides, numerical relativity simulations of binary black hole and black hole neutron star systems as part of the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) Collaboration, optical characterization of LIGO optics, theoretical calculations of thermal noise and mathematical relativity.

The successful applicant will establish and carry out a research program in gravitational-wave physics that complements the existing strengths in GWPAC and involves undergraduate and master's students. Contributions to the study of third-generation gravitational-wave science and/or detector development are expected as part of their research activities.

Women and members of groups traditionally underrepresented in physics and astronomy are especially encouraged to apply.

The application deadline is October 31, 2018 or until filled. To be considered for this position, please submit an application

On the application website, please submit the names and contact information of three references. We also ask that you attach a cover letter, a short statement of research interests, and a curriculum vitae. If you have any questions, please email Jocelyn Read at (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

This Sunday, May 21, five students from Cal State Fullerton's Gravitational-Wave Physics and Astronomy Center (GWPAC) will graduate and enter graduate schools and industry. Additionally, two of our 2016 graduates will enter graduate school programs. 

2016 nousha smallNousha Afshari, who delivered one of the two student speeches at the 2016 College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Commencement also worked at Johnson and Johnson; she will pursue a PhD. While in GWPAC Nousha was the undergraduate system administator for the ORCA computing cluster and performed numerical simulations of merging black holes. 

Nick Demos, mentored by Dr. Geoffrey Lovelace, co-authored a paper on merging black holes published in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity and helped develop code to simulate thermal noise in gravitational-wave detector optics. Nick will graduate with a BSc this Sunday and begin Ph.D. studies in physics at MIT this fall.

Alyssa Garcia will graduate on Sunday with a BSc in physics. Alyssa’s research focuses on analyzing and comparing model gravitational waveforms for colliding black holes, she has presented her work at regional, national, and international conferences, and she is a co-author on a paper published in Classical and Quantum Gravity in which she presents her results comparing different computational models of the first gravitational waves that LIGO measured. She will begin PhD studies in physics at Brandeis University this fall.

John Derby will graduate on Sunday with a master's degree in physics. He used supercomputer simulations of merging black holes to test whether they obey the “spin limit” that has been proven to hold for single black holes. We don’t know for sure whether that limit can be violated when two black holes merge, but John found that it held in a simulation of merging black holes with the highest initial black-hole spins to date. John also used simulations to explore how black holes tear apart neutron stars when the black hole is rapidly spinning. john derby

Chancellor Torrey

Haroon Khan is graduating in May 2017 with a major in electrical engineering and a minor in physics. Haroon transferred to Cal State Fullerton, motivated by his participation in the STEM^2 Summer Research Experience, in 2014. His research continues his STEM^2 work in the department of physics, where has focused on visualizing merging black holes and their spacetime curvature. Haroon has helped to make images and movies of merging black holes that have appeared in the national and international media. Haroon looks forward to a career in engineering, and hopes one day to work as an aerospace engineer at NASA.

Torrey Cullen, a 2016 BSc graduate in physics, and a current research associate in GWPAC with Dr. Jocelyn Read, will be entering a PhD program in gravitational physics and optics at Lousiana State University. Currently Torrey and Dr. Read are writing a paper on the detectability of astrophysical effects from neutron star matter in gravitational-wave signals.

Three of these GWPAC graduates: Alyssa Garcia, Nick Demos, and Haroon Khan (all three supervised by Dr. Lovelace) won this year's Outstanding Student Scholarly Awards in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the College of Engineering. 

2017 nsm awards

GWPAC is extremely proud of all of your accomplishments and we are excited to see what the future holds for you!