Dr. Maria Alessandra Papa elected Fellow of the American Physical Society

Prestigious award for key contributions to gravitational-wave astronomy

January 20, 2015

Dr. Maria Alessandra Papa, research group leader in the "Astrophysical and Cosmological Relativity" division at the Albert Einstein Institute, has been elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS). This honor is bestowed only on half a percent of the 50,000 APS members. It recognizes the awardee's outstanding contributions to physics.

The APS awarded the fellowship to Dr. Papa for her "numerous key contributions to gravitational-wave astronomy, including devising new data analysis methods for gravitational waves from pulsars and coordinating the worldwide exchange and analysis of data".

Dr. Papa's research focuses on strategies for the detection of long-lasting gravitational-wave signals. The exact parameters of these weak signals are a priori unknown. Therefore, large data volumes have to analyzed with an enormous number of different digital filters, requiring computationally efficient search methods as well as huge computing power. Dr. Papa has developed new search techniques and helped to create Einstein@Home, a distributed computing project that enlists the help of citizen scientist from all around the world for gravitational-wave data analysis. Dr. Papa leads the analysis of the gravitational-wave data on this platform.

From mid 2006 to late 2013, Dr. Papa was the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) Chair of the LSC-Virgo Data Analysis Council. This working group is responsible for proposing scientific priorities to the LSC and Virgo Collaborations and for coordinating the overall gravitational-wave data analysis efforts.

The LSC's gravitational-wave detectors will come online later this year with unprecedented sensitivity. The first direct detection of gravitational waves is expected in the following years as observational data are closely studied and analysed, using – among others – methods developed by Dr. Papa for Einstein@Home.

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