Grad Students Worked Behind The Scenes On Nobel Prize-Winning Discovery

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Microscope in LaboratoryGrad students at Syracuse University are among the stars of the physics world. The Daily Orange reports that these students worked on the discovery of gravitational waves and neutron star collisions. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) headed the discovery, which resulted in Barry Barish, Kip Thorne, and Rainer Weiss accepting the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics.

As for the university, the Daily Orange reports that SU honored several physics professors for their work at a New Age of Discovery event. The project as a whole expands upon Einstein’s theory of general relativity, according to Einstein had predicted that gravitational waves existed, but the LIGO team observed these waves in 2015. The waves were produced by two colliding black holes.

According to, SU was the first university to work on Einstein’s theory, and professors started working with LIGO in the 80s.

Then graduate students got involved in the project.

Specifically, the students calibrated the LIGO instrument, helping it detect these waves. This process involves comparing two instruments, one with known correctness and one being tested. In addition to this technical task, the students modeled black holes.

The Daily Orange reports that the graduate students received recognition when an audience member questioned why the university was only honoring men for the accomplishment. Among these students are Ari Fair (a Ph.D. student) and Swetha Bhagwat, who worked on the LIGO project for several years.

“It’s a privilege to see something as big as this happen, especially two of them, in your graduate career,” Bhagwat said in a statement to the Daily Orange. “It’s really huge.”

Both of the students told the Daily Orange that they received calls from friends and family excited about the announcement. And the excitement of discovery likely does not stop here.

“It’s like one mission is done, but there is still so much more to do,” Bhagwat said. “There is no lack of work at all.”

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