The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded Mathematical Sciences Assistant Professor Marc Favata a five-year, $400,000 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant for a research and education project that will explore ways in which gravitational waves offer a new way of looking at the universe.
The competitive award supports the research and education initiatives of faculty like Favata who are in the early stages of their careers.
Favata is a member of the international LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) team that made history in 2015 when it detected, for the first time, gravitational waves from two black holes colliding to form one. The detection – one of the most significant physics discoveries of the past 50 years – confirmed a key prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 theory of relativity.
According to Favata, LIGO’s discovery helps answer questions about the environment in which these black holes formed and how they interacted and evolved before becoming black holes. “We’re also asking, ‘Was Einstein right?’ It’s possible that as our measurements become more precise, we could find a disagreement with Einstein’s theory.”
University students will be involved in project research and educational components. “They’ll help improve the ‘Sounds of Spacetime’ website that we created last year (soundsofspacetime.org), which lets people ‘listen’ to the universe by exploring the analogy between gravitational waves and sound.”
Favata is eager to continue expanding the frontiers of gravitational-wave science.
“I’m looking forward to LIGO finding many more signals,” he says.