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Training the Next Generation of Universe Explorers

The “chirps” celebrated inside the Gravitational-Wave Physics and Astronomy Center on Feb. 11 were the sound of the universe — gravitational waves sent out from a pair of colliding black holes a billion light-years away and converted to sound waves.

The National Science Foundation and LIGO Scientific Collaboration — a group of more than 1,000 scientists from universities across the U.S., including CSUF, and in 14 other countries — had announced the first detection of gravitational waves, opening a new window onto the universe.

Housed in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, the center is the hub for faculty-student research activities related to gravitational waves. The center is at the forefront of universe exploration, making new scientific discoveries and inspiring the next generation of scholars through leading-edge research, engagement and mentorship.

The Sept. 14, 2015, discovery of gravitational waves — 100 years after Albert Einstein predicted them — provides a fundamentally different way to observe the universe, bringing new information about the most violent astrophysical events, such as collisions of black holes. A second gravitational-wave observation on Dec. 25, 2015 was announced in June.

The center’s research involves modeling sources of gravitational waves, such as black holes and neutron stars; understanding the gravitational-wave signals they produce; helping to identify signals in the LIGO detectors; and improving the sensitivity of the detectors.

With a generous gift from physics alumnus Dan Black ’67, the center is positioned to expand and advance gravitational-wave research, teaching and outreach. Black funded a three-year naming gift to create the Dan Black Director of the GravitationalWave Physics and Astronomy Center. His gift supports the involvement of more undergraduates and graduate students in research. This, in turn, will help them contribute to scientific discoveries and learn laboratory, computing and problem-solving skills applicable to careers in academia, computing, aerospace, optics, signal processing and other industries.

“The center promotes a diverse scientific community to train the next generation of gravitational-wave scientists,” said Joshua Smith, associate professor of physics and Dan Black Director.

To learn more about investment opportunities in the Gravitational-Wave Physics and Astronomy Center, contact Michael Karg, interim senior director of development for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, at 657-278-3348 or mkarg@fullerton.edu.