Researchers at the University of Birmingham, Alberto Vecchio & Andreas Freise, set out to observe gravitational waves in order to prove or disprove Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Whilst previously shelved as purely a product of mathematics, Alberto explains that “the fascinating thing about good ideas is they start spreading, even without you.” By working together with colleagues from across the globe, they launched a new era for astronomy, ignited by two black holes colliding around a billion years ago.
Alberto Vecchio is a Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Birmingham. During his PhD, he became fascinated by the idea that one could map colliding black holes throughout the Universe and one day, observe the infant Universe itself using a form of radiation that at the time no one had been able to capture - Gravitational Waves. Alberto’s career has been spent working with colleagues around the world on gravitational wave observations and experiments, such as LIGO - the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, and pulsar timing arrays. Within the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, Alberto has been leading the group responsible for developing the techniques to tease out the physical properties of binary systems of compact objects from the data. He is also part of the team that has directly detected gravitational waves and discovered the first binary black hole.
Andreas Freise is a Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Birmingham. He has a leading role in the design and construction of gravitational wave detectors and has chaired optical design working groups of the international projects Advanced Virgo and the Einstein Telescope. Andreas is passionate about teaching in a research-focused University and is keen to motivate and inspire by making scientific research more widely accessible. He strongly believes that involving open-minded students in his own work helps him generate new ideas and drives his research projects. Andreas enjoys exploring new paths for public engagement, for example as a co-founder of the not-for-profit Laser Labs and founder of the LIGO Magazine.