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Dr Katherine Dooley

Dr Katherine Dooley

Reader
Gravitational Physics Group

School of Physics and Astronomy

Available for postgraduate supervision

I work in the exciting field of experimental gravitational-wave physics. Predicted by Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity over 100 years ago, gravitational waves are extremely small ripples in space-time created by astrophysical events like the collision of black holes or the death explosion of stars. A network of gravitational-wave detectors around the world, from the U.S. to Italy and Japan, have been and will be used to directly detect the effects of gravitational waves here on Earth. 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 helped build the LIGO detectors and am desiging new technology to make them even better. I'm also designing a new upper-undergraduate and master's-level course on gravitational-wave instrumention, to be launched Autumn 2019.

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

Education

  • 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

  • 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," $360,000; 2016-2019
  • 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
  • LIGO Scientific Collaboration Council
  • Co-chair of the LIGO Academic Advisory Committee
  • 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

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, as well as a course to bring new physics students up to speed with the mathematical skills necessary for success in physics. My current endeavor at Cardiff is the creation of a new module about precision measurement techniques and the design of laser interferometers for gravitational-wave detectors.

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. My work includes the development of quantum optics experiments to manipulate Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and the prototyping of a tilt-free seismometer to filter out the unwanted effects of Einstein’s Equivalence Principle. Together, both lines of research will ultimately improve the interferometers’ sensitivity to coalescing black holes and neutron stars, put limits on the elusive neutron star equation of state, and increase the duty cycle of the detectors.

I've supervised the following students:

Master's students

  • Camillo Cocchieri, University of Pisa and University of Mississippi (2015-present): 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

  • Anneke Buskes, Oxford HS (2017): design and construction of analog readout for a quadrant photodiode
  • Niamke Buchanan, Oxford HS (2016): Mathematica-based model of a pendulum