Anjana Ashok

PhD student in the independent research group “Searching for Continuous Gravitational Waves”

What is your current position at our institute?

I am a second-year PhD student in the independent research group “Searching for Continuous Gravitational Waves”

How and when did you choose to do physics?

As an 8 year old, I was hooked by the picture book on space that my aunt gifted me. It all seemed very mysterious. I decided I wanted to go there. Couple of years later, I figured out that ‘going’ there is a feat of physical endurance which I was not interested in. Being an ‘astronomer’ looked more satisfying than being an ‘astronaut’. This plan lived on in the back of my mind, when senior school physics interested me. From there it was all a clear path, physics in college, physics in university and now a PhD where I (try to) do astronomy using gravitational waves.

What is your academic education?

  • Bachelors in Physics - 2012-2015, Government Arts and Science College, Calicut, Kerala, India, Affiliated to University of Calicut
  • Masters in Physics - 2015-2017, National Institute of Technology Karnataka, India

What were your previous academic positions?

  • Undergraduate Associate, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata, India.  2014-2015
  • Junior Research Fellow on a DST (Department of Science and Techonology, India) funded project, on "Physics of radio bright Gamma-Ray Burst afterglows”. January-June 2018, Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology.

Can you please describe your research?

Gravitational-wave astronomy is a reality today. So far we have had several detections of gravitational waves emitted from the merger of binary systems. There are more types of gravitational waves, waiting their first detection on earth. One amongst these is a  ‘continuous gravitational wave'. They are persistent and monochromatic. We expect emission from isolated compact objects, for instance, rotating, bumpy neutron stars. My Ph.D work is centered around the searches for these continuous gravitational waves from known pulsars.

Do you have a favourite figure to illustrate your current research?

Results from a mismatch study in continuous gravitational-wave searches.

In the search for gravitational waves, in reality we do not have a continuous template family. Our parameter spaces are made of discrete points. A true signal might not match exactly with any of these discrete templates. Such mismatches can lead to a loss of signal to noise ratio. We should understand the mismatches introduced into the search by the template grid we use for the purpose. This is achieved by carrying out a large number of signal injections and recovering them using the grid of interest. The figure is from such a study, where a grid set-up in frequency-spin down parameter space is tested for mismatch. The figure was part of the work but was not published in the paper.  Yet, it is my favourite figure.

Why did you choose the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics for your research?

AEI Hannover is perhaps the most productive research institute in gravitational-wave astronomy, with a high density of leading scientists in the field. Furthermore, amongst the different PhD offers I had, it was the one from Max Planck Institute of Gravitational Physics that caught my imagination, because it carried the possibility of an adventurous time ‘trying to detect the yet-undetected’.

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