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Dr Katherine Dooley

Dr Katherine Dooley

Gravity Exploration Institute

School of Physics and Astronomy

Available for postgraduate supervision


I'm an experimentalist, working in the blossoming field of gravitational-wave physics and the use of precision measurement techniques to shed light on fundamental physics questions such as the nature of spacetime and of dark matter. I'm from upstate NY (USA) and bounced between research groups in the US and Germany before arriving in Cardiff in 2018. 

Gravitational waves are produced by explosive events in the distant universe like the collisions of black holes and neutron stars, and create minuscule ripples in spacetime. Detecting them requires the design and construction of large laser interferometers that push the limits of precision measurement techniques.

A network of gravitational-wave detectors, each up to 4 km long, spans the globe from the U.S. to Italy, Japan, and Germany. The first detection in 2015 of two black holes that collided while traveling at half the speed of light(!) made headlines around the world and earned the founders of LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics. I was part of the team of on-site scientists who upgraded and commissioned the LIGO and GEO600 detectors (2007-2014) and am desiging new technology to make them even better.


Professional appointments

  • 2018–present: Reader, Cardiff University and Research Assistant Professor, University of Mississippi
  • 2015–2017: Assistant Professor, University of Mississippi
  • 2014–2015: Postdoctoral researcher, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA
  • 2011–2014: Postdoctoral researcher, Albert-Einstein-Institute (Max-Plank-Institut für Gravitationsphysik), Hannover, Germany


  • PhD in Physics, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL U.S.A., 2011
  • BA in Physics, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY U.S.A., 2006

Honors and Awards

  • Philip Leverhulme Prize, 2018
  • National Academy of Sciences Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow, 2017
  • Gruber Cosmology Prize "for the first detection of gravitational waves," 2016
  • Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, "recognizing scientists and engineers contributing to the momentous detection of gravitational waves," 2016
  • National Science Foundation (NSF) award to fund the project entitled, "A Tilt-Free Seismometer for Advanced Gravitational-wave Detectors," 2016-2021
  • American Physical Society (APS) award to start a Women in Physics group at the U. of Mississippi, 2015
  • Tom Scott Award, U. of Florida "awarded annually to a senior graduate student in experimental physics who has shown distinction in research," 2010
  • LIGO Student Fellowship, California Institute of Technology, 2008-2009
  • AAPT (American Association of Physics Teachers) Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, 2007

Professional Memberships and Service

  • LIGO Scientific Collaboration (2007-present)
  • LIGO Scientific Collaboration Council (2015-2019)
  • Einstein Telescope Collaboration (2018-present)
  • Co-chair of the ET "Low-frequency control noise" working group (2021-present)
  • Co-chair of the LIGO Academic Advisory Committee (2018-2020)
  • American Physical Society
  • Phi Beta Kappa Society, America's oldest and most prestigious academic honor society
  • Sigma Xi, an international honour society of science and engineering


We are currently unable to retrieve the list of publications. Visit our institutional repository.


Before arriving at Cardiff University in 2018, I taught the introductory physics sequence covering mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and waves for honors students at the U. of Mississippi (USA), as well as a course to bring new physics students up to speed with the mathematical skills necessary for success in physics.

One of my teaching projects at Cardiff has been the creation of a new MSc/year 4 module (PXT901) about precision measurement techniques and the design of laser interferometers for gravitational-wave detectors. I am also teaching year 3 Statistical Mechanics (PX3249).

Ground-based gravitational-wave detectors are multi-kilometer-long laser interferometers that push the limits of precision measurement. I'm interested in the development of new instrumentation and experimental techniques to improve the interferometers’ sensitivity to gravitational waves and in applying these methods to the quest for shedding light on other fundamental physics questions.

Some of my key contributions include the demonstration of the first-ever reduction of quantum noise in a gravitational-wave detector through the application of squeezed vacuum states of light (Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 2013), and more recently, the development and implementation of new control techniques which have increased the duty cycle of the Advanced LIGO detectors  (Class. Quant. Grav. 24, 2020).

Over the past several years my research has expanded to include cutting-edge investigations into fundamental physics problems by harnessing the precision measurement techniques perfected for gravitational wave detection. Here at Cardiff, we are building high power, co-located laser interferometers which we'll use to search for quantization of spacetime, dark matter, and ultra-high-frequency GWs (Class. Quant. Grav. 38, 2020) as part of the UK Quantum Interferometry consortium. I am also applying my intimate understanding of the complexities of GW detectors, particularly related to the interaction of the seismic isolation and angular control subsystems, to guide the design of future GW detectors (Phys. Rev. Lett. 120, 2018).


I've supervised the following students:

PhD students

  • Abhinav Patra (2021-present): improving the seismic isolation of Advanced LIGO
  • William Griffiths (2019-present): output mode cleaner for observational quantum gravity

Master's students

  • Camillo Cocchieri, University of Pisa and University of Mississippi (2015-2018): experimental design of a suspension for a tilt-free seismometer
  • Mohammad Afrough, University of Mississippi. Thesis title: "A Thermal Enclosure Prototype for a Suspended Inertial Sensor" (Dec. 2017)

Undergraduate students

  • Justin Ryan, U. of Mississippi (2017): transfer function measurements of inertial sensors
  • Zachary Sabata, U. of Nebraska (2017): measurement of polarizing beam splitter losses
  • Veronica Leccese, U. of Pisa (2016): current driver design and construction of a three-mirror mode cleaning cavity
  • Bryce Wedig, Kenyon College (2016): measurement of polarizing beam splitter losses
  • Jared Wofford, U. of Mississippi (2015-2016): front-end electronics for a quadrant photo-diode
  • Alessandra Marrocchesi, U. of Pisa (2015): model, design and construction of an inverted pendulum
  • Megan Kelley, UCSB (2015): design and construction of an actively controlled thermal enclosure
  • Stephanie Moon, Caltech (2014-2015): design and modal analysis of a suspension cage

High School students

  • Sam Kelson, Spackenkill HS, USA (2019-2021): effect of optical losses in a Michelson interferometer
  • Anneke Buskes, Oxford HS, USA (2017): design and construction of analog readout for a quadrant photodiode
  • Niamke Buchanan, Oxford HS, USA (2016): Mathematica-based model of a pendulum