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Professor Stephen Fairhurst

Professor Stephen Fairhurst

Head of Gravity Exploration Institute

+44 (0)29 2087 0166
1.16, Queen's Buildings - North Building, 5 The Parade, Newport Road, Cardiff, CF24 3AA
Media commentator
Available for postgraduate supervision


My research focuses on observing gravitational wave signals emitted by the coalescence of black holes and neutron stars, and using these observations to understand the properties of the systems that we observe.

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.


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


  • I developed and taught the first year module 'Computational Skills for Problem Solving, from 2012 to 2015. Visit the Course website.
  • I developed and taught the fourth year module 'Advanced general relativity and gravitational waves' in 2015.
  • I currently teach the third year module `Special Relativity and Particle Physics'.

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 the years, I have developed large parts of the search and lead 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. Subsequently, we have observed more than fifty gravitational wave signals from merging black holes and several from colliding neutron stars.


Current supervision

Samuel Higginbotham

Research student

Past projects

Previous Postgraduate Students

I have previously supervised seven PhD students as primary supervisor:

  • Dr Ian Harry, Can we hear black holes collide?,
  • Dr Valeriu Predoi, Gravitational waves and short gamma ray bursts,
  • Dr Duncan Macleod, Improving the sensitivity of searches for gravitational waves from compact binary coalescences,
  • Dr Andrew Williamson, Gravitational waves with gamma-ray bursts,
  • Dr Charlie Hoy, You spin me round: Measuring precession in the black hole population,
  • Dr Cameron Mills, Compact binary astrophysics,
  • Dr Rhys Green, There’s more than one way to ride the wave: A multi-disciplinary approach to gravitational wave data analysis,

and two MPhil students: