A PhD student from the School of Physics and Astronomy has recently won the Hartle Award for the best student talk in her session at the 21st International conference on General Relativity and Gravitation in New York (GR21). The conference was organised under the sponsorships of the International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation.

Serena Vinciguerra had been working closely with Ilya Mandel, Professor of Theoretical Physics and Dr John Veitch, STFC Ernest Rutherford Research Fellow, on gravitational wave data analysis.

Gravitational waves are distortions in space and time itself that are produced by violent events in our Universe. According to Einstein's theory of gravity, such waves were generated by the Big Bang at the very beginning of our Universe, and are created by colliding compact objects such as black holes and neutron stars, and by star explosions. By measuring these waves we can learn about these events and the Universe as a whole: we can do astronomy but in a transformative new way. 

Serena’s talk focused on the project which she has been working on during her PhD. The aim of the project was to speed-up the parameter estimation for gravitational waves emitted by the merging of binaries composed by black holes and/or neutron stars. Her talk at the C2 session was titled: "Gravitational waves: Searches, data analysis, parameter estimation, and multi messenger astronomy". This work will play an important role in maximising the scientific pay-out of advanced gravitational wave detectors.

The Conference consisted of plenary talks where the invited speakers discussed several different subjects. The talks explored a number of topics ranging from the theoretical to the excremental point of view, such as experiments with gravity, predictions of the electromagnetic counterpart of gravitational waves, developments of new theoretical frameworks for general relativity and data analysis techniques.

The University of Birmingham has long operated at the cutting edge of science and have recently invested £6 million in a new Institute of Gravitational Wave Astronomy, recognising the great opportunities in this exciting new field of science.