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Improving the sensitivity of gravitational-wave detectors

Project Description

Since the start of their first observing runs in fall 2015, Advanced LIGO and Virgo have made direct detections of gravitational waves created by the collisions of black holes and of neutron stars, thus bringing to life a new instrument for astronomy. This is accomplished through their measurements of infinitesimal changes (less than 10^-19 m at 100 Hz!) in the distance between two largely separated mirrors.

The Advanced LIGO laser interferometers are already the most precise measurement devices in the world, but there nonetheless remain many challenges along the path to further improve the interferometers in order to increase the signal-to-noise ratio and rate of gravitational wave detections. Noise resulting from fundamental physics such as the quantum nature of light and from technical sources such as the imperfect sensors used for controlling the interferometer’s myriad degrees of freedom require clever solutions that push the limits of technology.

There are several possible research directions for a new PhD student. Projects could include developing and testing new interferometric readout schemes, designing and building tilt-insensitive inertial sensors for improved seismic isolation, improving the integration of squeezed light to the interferometers, designing and prototyping new optical layouts for sensitivity improvement at targeted frequencies, modelling control topologies for third generation interferometers such as the Einstein Telescope, and contributing to fundamental physics experiments using precision interferometry. The PhD student will gain skills in high-precision optical experiments and noise analyses of complex experimental systems, all the while contributing to the budding field of gravitational-wave astronomy.

This project will be funded by the STFC.
Applicants should apply to the Doctor of Philosophy in Physics and Astronomy with a start date of 1st October 2020.

In the research proposal section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project. If you are applying for more than one project, please list the individual titles of the projects in the text box provided. In the funding section, please select ’I will be applying for a scholarship/grant’ and specify that you are applying for advertised funding from the STFC.

Applicants will need to submit the following documents with their application:
- post high school certificates and transcripts to date
- academic CV
- personal statement
- two academic references. Your references can either be uploaded with your application, or emailed by the referee to or

Funding Notes

Tuition fee support: Full UK/EU tuition fees
Maintenance stipend: Doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum

You should have obtained, or be about to obtain a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree in Physics , or a related subject, Alternatively, applicants with equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK will also be considered. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a Master’s degree.
Applicants whose first language is not English are normally expected to meet the minimum University requirements (e.g. 6.5 IELTS)

How good is research at Cardiff University in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 19.50

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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