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Blue digital image of a gravitational wave on black background
Quantum noise limits the sensitivity of modern precision measurements such as are necessary for observing gravitational waves and dark matter searches.

University of Birmingham physicist Dr Denis Martynov has been awarded £100,000 by the Leverhulme Trust to support his work in gravitational wave research.

The Philip Leverhulme Prizes are offered to researchers at an early stage of their careers whose work has had international impact and whose future research career is exceptionally promising. Each year, 30 prizes are awarded with the 2021 round recognising researchers in Classics; Earth Sciences; Physics; Politics and International Relations; Psychology; and Visual and Performing Arts.

Dr Martynov has worked on gravitational wave detection since completing his PhD at Caltech. Specifically, he took a leading role in commissioning the LIGO detector in Livingston, which recorded the first gravitational wave detections in 2015.

His work on calibrating the instruments and eliminating background noise has made the LIGO detector the most sensitive interferometer in the world and directly contributed to LIGO’s success.

Since joining Birmingham, Dr Martynov has started two new experiments to improve the current LIGO detectors. He has also proposed new directions for future gravitational wave detectors to study intermediate-mass black holes and the physics of neutron stars.

The Leverhulme award will enable Dr Martynov to develop quantum technologies to amplify gravitational wave signals and to focus on the search for dark matter.

He explained: “Quantum noise limits the sensitivity of modern precision measurements such as are necessary for observing gravitational waves and dark matter searches. My research team will build instruments and devise methods that can improve the signal-to-noise ratio, an approach which could lead to a 10-fold improvement in sensitivity of instruments such as gravitational wave detectors.”

This award is a fantastic and well-deserved recognition of the leading role Denis is playing in this exciting research area.

Professor Bill Chaplin, Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Birmingham.