People

 

Jess McIver

Dr. Jess McIver, Canada Research Chair in Gravitational Wave Astrophysics, Assistant Professor

I lead the GW astrophysics group, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration group here at UBC, and the UBC-TRIUMF LISA group. I served as a co-chair of the LIGO Detector Characterization group, working at the interface between gravitational wave astrophysics and the LIGO detector instrumentation, from 2017-2020. Before I came to UBC as an assistant professor in 2019, I held a postdoctoral fellow position at the LIGO Laboratory at Caltech. I was based at the LIGO Livingston observatory during the first detection of gravitational waves in 2015, and I led the effort to validate this first detection as astrophysical. My research interests include gravitational-wave astrophysics with black holes, neutron stars, and core-collapse supernovae using detectors on Earth, like LIGO, as well as in space, like LISA. I’m also active in data science, machine learning, and characterization of large-scale physics experiment instrumentation.

Evan Goetz

Dr. Evan Goetz, Research Associate

My research areas of interest include astrophysics with gravitational waves from neutron stars and black holes, gravitational wave detector characterization and calibration, and developing analysis software tools to enable this science. I have been a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration for over 15 years, actively working on the detectors and analysis of LIGO data. I have developed new methods for analyzing data for continuous gravitational waves, increasing the accuracy and precision of detector calibration, and helped improve the quality of data from the LIGO detectors. I look forward to the transformational science that gravitational waves have to offer.

Alan Knee

Alan Knee, Ph.D. student

I work on parameter estimation of coalescing compact binaries via their emission of gravitational waves. The current focus of my research is looking at how the A+ upgrades to the LIGO detectors will help us resolve the relative spin orientations of binary black hole systems and the implications this has with respect to distinguishing between various formation channels.

Nayyer Raza, M.Sc. student

As a member of the LIGO Burst-Supernova team I study the gravitational waves emitted during core-collapse supernovae: violent explosions of massive stars towards the end of their life. My research focuses on using the Bayesian inference algorithm BayesWave to improve waveform reconstructions of the expected signals from supernovae in LIGO-Virgo data and learn about the dynamics of the astrophysical source.

Yannick (Niko) Lecoeuche, M.Sc. student

I am a member of the LIGO detector characterization team at UBC. My current research focuses on evaluating how non-Gaussian transient noise overlapping real gravitational wave signals affects parameter estimation for those signals. I have been part of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration for three years prior to my graduate studies, working as an operations specialist at the LIGO Hanford Observatory.

Katie Rink

Katie Rink, UBC alumna

The primary focus of my research with the LIGO Detector Characterization group has been to investigate the effects of detector upgrades implemented throughout the third observing run (O3). Over the next few years I will also explore the impact of glitches on parameter estimation. For my masters research at UMass Dartmouth, I will be developing a discontinuous Galerkin solver for the Teukolsky equations to implement extreme mass ratio inspiral (EMRI) models into the SpECTRE code database.

Seraphim Jarov

Seraphim Jarov, B.Sc. student

The goal of my research is to improve our ability to safely distinguish between noise transients (glitches) and real astrophysical events in our detector data. My project is centered around Gravity Spy, a convolutional neural network used to identify different glitch types. I spend most of my time testing Gravity Spy’s performance by simulating waveforms and retraining Gravity Spy’s model on enriched training sets with the hope of improving classification accuracy for the next observing run.

Julian Ding

Julian Ding, B.Sc. student

I am an undergrad in my final year in a combined major in computer science and physics. My research with the Gravitational Waves group focuses on unsupervised methods of detecting time series anomalies in gravitational wave data, with the ultimate goal that such methods can be used to reliably detect novel, unclassified transient noise events (glitches). The current method of interest is the Temporal Outlier Factor, a technique that uses higher-dimensional embedding to recreate the dynamical phase space of a time series and then correlates spatial and temporal clustering to find anomalies in the data.

Helen Du, B.Sc. student

I am working on my honours thesis with the gravitational wave astrophysics group. My research project lies within the search for continuous gravitational waves from non-axisymmetric neutron stars, using more sensitive match-filtering based methods. This involves employing frequency tracking for a large number of candidates using Hidden Markov/Viterbi algorithms, followed by MCMC-based analyses with PyFStat. Then, comparisons can be made to current waveform models to look for potential continuous wave sources.

Sabiha Bhuiyan, B.Sc. student

My honours thesis research is aimed at characterizing to what extent and how ground tilt induced by vertical ground motion from microseism at the LIGO detectors sites couples (via the control system) into horizontal differential motion between vacuum chambers of optical cavities. In particular, I am exploring how this coupling transfers from the ground to the optics through the stages of seismic isolation infrastructure. This involves transforming and visualizing data from the relevant sensors.

Nikolas TC Boily, B.Sc. student

I am an undergraduate student in the Physics and Astronomy program, working on an honours thesis. My project is to characterize spin information of low-mass compact binary black hole mergers. Using a Bayesian inference pipeline, I will be analyzing our ability to measure the spin properties from computer-generated gravitational wave signals. This work will help future LIGO-Virgo observing runs by providing a statistical method characterizing these spin measurements. We hope the results of this work will bring us closer to understanding the formation of low-mass BBH systems, and possibly how stars can evolve into low mass binary black holes.

Sarah Thiele, B.Sc. student

I am currently working on my honours thesis with the team to explore using the Temporal Outlier Factor to characterize LIGO data. I also worked with Dr. Jess McIver and the LIGO detector characterization team for the Fall 2020 term. The primary focus of my project was characterizing transient noise signals called “glitches” to create a veto which can differentiate between glitches and astrophysical signals. This involved investigating compact binary coalescence (CBC) parameter estimation on short-duration glitch sets, analyzing trends in waveform injections classified by a convolutional neural network called Gravity Spy, and other approaches to aid in forming a differentiation metric.

 

Group alumni

Dr. Miriam Cabero Müller, Postdoctoral fellow

My research with focused on detecting compact binaries and studying black holes. I was a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration throughout my PhD, actively contributing to the detection of the first gravitational-wave signals and to the characterization of noise sources in data from the Advanced LIGO detectors. I have also worked on studying theoretical aspects of black-hole horizons and I have developed parameter estimation methods to analyze the remnant black hole in binary coalescences as tools to test General Relativity with gravitational waves. At UBC I explored machine learning techniques to optimize usage of telescope time in electromagnetic follow up of gravitational-wave candidates. Miriam is now a data scientist at EarthDaily Analytics in Vancouver. 

Robert Beda, B.Sc. student

In the summer of 2020, Robert Beda was awarded an NSERC USRA to work with the UBC GW astrophysics group to understand the effects of different observatory system configurations on the quality of output data, as quantified by glitch rates. In particular, the standard reaction to approaching earthquakes changes the behaviour of seismic isolation systems so as to potentially influence data quality. Understanding this relationship may contribute towards development of observatory systems that collect even better data despite stressful environmental conditions. Github gwpy scripts

Maryum Sayeed

Maryum Sayeed, B.Sc. alumna

Maryum Sayeed graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Combined Honours in Physics & Astronomy B.Sc. degree in May 2020 after working with the UBC GW astrophysics group on the impacts of non-stationarity data on astrophysical parameter estimation of compact binary coalescences. She is putting her LIGO data analysis skills to work in the technology consulting sector in Alberta.

Collaborators

  • We are partnered with a pan-Canadian team of astronomers leveraging gravitational waves for multi-messenger astrophysics.
  • We have teamed up with Professor of Computer Science Raymond Ng and the Data Science Institute at UBC to power our data science projects.
  • Most members of the UBC GW astrophysics group are part of the LIGO group at UBC, which spans five labs across the departments of physics & astronomy and chemistry.
  • The UBC LIGO group is part of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.
  • Some UBC GW astro members are members of the LISA Consortium and the UBC-TRIUMF LISA group.
  • Some of our colleagues at UBC research lower frequency gravitational-wave astronomy with Pulsar Timing Arrays.