Professor Stephen Fairhurst

Professor Stephen Fairhurst

Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Director, Data Innovation Research Institute

School of Physics and Astronomy

Email:
fairhursts@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44 (0)29 2087 0166
Location:
N/1.15, Queen's Buildings - North Building, 5 The Parade, Newport Road, Cardiff, CF24 3AA
Media commentator

I am a gravitational wave astronomer. I have spent the past decade developing and carrying out searches for gravitational waves.

I am a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, and for five years led the Compact Binary Coalescence group, responsible for searching for black hole and neutron star binary mergers.

Prof Fairhurst obtained a BA in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge in 1995, and completed the part III mathematics in 1996. He obtained my PhD in Physics from Penn State University in 2001, supervised by Abhay Ashtekar. His doctoral research focused on the properties of black hole horizons.

Following his PhD, he was a Killam postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alberta for two years and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee for three years. It was at Milwaukee that he began to work on searches for gravitational waves using the LIGO, Virgo and GEO detectors. He worked as a visiting associate at the California Institute of technology for a year.

Prof Fairhurst joined the staff at Cardiff University in 2007. He was a Royal Society University Research Fellow from 2007 to 2014. He is currently a Professor at Cardiff University.

Speaking engagements

I have given a number of invited talks in recent years, including

  • "Status of LIGO and Virgo searches for Neutron star binaries", MICRA 2015, Stockholm, Sweden, 2015
  • "Einstein’s Messengers", UK-India Frontiers of Science, India, 2014
  • "Gravitational Waves and Gamma Ray Bursts", Paris, France, 2014
  • "Gravitational Wave Astronomy with Compact Binaries: Localization and Latency", KITP, Santa Barbara, USA, 2012
  • "Gravitational Wave Astronomy", NEB15, Crete, Greece, 2012
  • "Gravitational Wave Astronomy," Goa, India 2011
  • "Current and Future Challenges in Gravitational Wave Observation," London, UK, 2010
  • "Searching for Gravitational Waves from Coalescing Binary Systems," Penn State, PA, USA, 2009
  • "Current status of exploiting theoretical modelling of gravity waves in data analysis,", Santa Barbara, CA, USA, 2008.

Conference Organisation

  • I have been involved in the organisation of a number of conferences including Amaldi 9 and NRDA 2011, Cardiff; NRDA 2010, Waterloo, Canada.

Editorial Boards

  • I serve on the editorial board of the International Journal of Modern Physics D.

Membership of external committees

  • I am chair of the STFC Computing Advisory Panel.
  • I am a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration's Executive Committee.
  • I developed and taught the first year module 'Computational Skills for Problem Solving (PX1224), from 2012 to 2015. Course website.
  • I developed and taught the fourth year module 'Advanced general relativity and gravitational waves' (PX4224) in 2015.
  • I was deputy module organiser for General Relativity (PX4115) from 2014-15.
  • I was deputy module organiser for Topics in Astronomy (PX2109) from 2009-11.

Postgraduate Students

I currently supervise two PhD students: Alistair Muir and Samantha Usman My former students are:

  • Dr Ian Harry, now a postdoctoral researcher at Albert Einstein Institut, Berlin;
  • Dr Valeriu Predoi, now a postdoctoral researcher at Cardiff University
  • Dr Duncan Macleod, now a postdoctoral researcher at Louisiana State University.
  • Dr Andrew Williamson, now a postdoctoral researcher at Rochester Institute of Technology

On 11th February 2016, the LIGO and Virgo collaborations announced the first observation of gravitational waves, from a black hole merger.

My research focuses primarily on identifying gravitational wave signals emitted by merging black holes and neutron stars, and using the observed signals to understand the properties of the sources. Over they years, I have developed large parts of the search and leads the Cardiff effort to search for binary merger signals in the advanced LIGO data.

In late 2015, gravitational waves emitted from merging black holes were observed for the first time. In the coming years, we expect to see many more gravitational wave signals from binary black hole mergers, as well as mergers of two neutron stars. My work will focus on using these observations, combined with the observation of any electromagnetic transients observed at the same time to understand the properties of black holes and neutron stars, and how they formed in the universe.