Working together to ride the gravitational waves

LIGO meeting

Working together to ride the gravitational waves: Dedication ceremony of the Advanced LIGO project at the LIGO Hanford facility in Richland, Washington.
© Caltech/MIT/LIGO Laboratory

If you’re thinking about famous scientists who made ground-breaking discoveries and proposed world-changing theories, there’s a good chance the Albert Einstein springs to mind. Over the years, Einstein has become emblematic of the “solitary scientist”, whose greatest ideas sprang from his own genius.

However, the days of the lone scientist making a ground breaking discovery are pretty much a thing of the past. Today science is built on collaboration; not only between scientists and engineers working together across departments and facilities, but between groups across the world working together towards a common goal.

To detect gravitational waves (the last unconfirmed prediction of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity) at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), took more than a thousand scientists and countless support staff, from over 90 institutions in 15 countries. Among this massive melting pot of international talent were engineers and scientists from the UK (including from the Universities of Glasgow, Cardiff, Birmingham and Strathclyde and from Rutherford Appleton Laboratory), whose skill and ingenuity was crucial to making the discovery possible.

The UK has been involved in gravitational wave research for over four decades, as key partners in a global collaboration led by the US. With the help of funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), our scientists have pioneered key aspects of the technology behind gravitational-wave detection, helped lead the analysis of data gathered from around the world, and played a crucial role in developing the techniques that allow scientists to identify the source of the gravitational waves they detect.

And their work is continuing.

In collaboration with other groups around the world, they are laying the foundations for the next generation of gravitational wave detectors. Without a doubt, their expertise and ingenuity will continue to be at the heart of the emerging science of gravitational wave astronomy.

Explore gravitational wave laboratories around the world.

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000