Investing to make waves

Fresh insights into the origins of our universe could be made at Birmingham thanks to a new £6 million research institute.

The Institute of Gravitational Wave Astronomy is the first of its kind in the UK and follows on from the key role played by Birmingham scientists in the detection of gravitational waves ripples in the fabric of space-time that confirm a fundamental prediction of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

Gravitational waves carry unique information about how our universe began and studying them is expected to provide important information about the evolution of stars, supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, neutron stars and black holes. In the long term, it should be possible to study the very first instances of life in the universe.

University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir David Eastwood said: ‘The Institute will provide a world-leading focal point for global talent to unlock some of the most well-kept and fascinating mysteries of the universe.

‘Our investment in the UK’s first Institute dedicated to gravitational wave astronomy is in recognition of the significance of the detection and will lead the way in exploiting the tremendous scientific opportunities that have now opened up.’

Members of the University’s Gravitational Wave Group were involved in the international project to detect gravitational waves from the outset, developing and building hardware for the advanced instruments and analysing the acquired data.

The new Institute will pioneer new ideas in precision measurement while engaging with industries and businesses to develop partnerships and transfer technology. A central objective will be the training of students and young researchers, educating new generations in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects through participation in cutting-edge research.

Professor Alberto Vecchio, Professor of Astrophysics, said: ‘The University's investment is providing Birmingham with a springboard to be at the forefront of gravitational-wave astronomy at a time in which the field is about to boom. I can't wait for the many exciting discoveries and surprises in the years to come.’

Find out more about the work done at Birmingham with this TedX talk by Professor Vecchio and his colleague Professor Andreas Freise, Professor of Experimental Physics: