APS 2020 Richard A. Isaacson Award in Gravitational-Wave Science for Bruce Allen and Bernard Schutz

American Physical Society honors Max Planck director and director emeritus for their pioneering and decisive contributions to gravitational-wave data analysis

October 22, 2019

Bruce Allen, director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Hannover and Bernard Schutz, director emeritus and founding director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Potsdam, will jointly receive the annual American Physical Society’s 2020 Richard A. Isaacson Award in Gravitational-Wave Science. The award recognizes their “pioneering and decisive contributions to the development and successful implementation of analysis techniques required to detect and interpret gravitational-wave signals”. The award ceremony will take place in April 2020 at the American Physical Society’s Meeting in Washington, D.C.

“We are delighted that the American Physical Society recognizes our long-term contributions to gravitational-wave data analysis,” say Bruce Allen and Bernard Schutz.

“Astronomy with gravitational waves needs both sensitive instruments and equally sensitive and efficient data analysis methods. In a sense, data analysis is the other half of the detection systems that produce the scientific results. Its development has gone hand-in-hand with that of the hardware since the 1980s,” adds Bernard Schutz.

“So far we have only observed gravitational waves from merging compact objects, and there many other types of gravitational wave sources that we are still looking for. More sensitive instruments will help with this, but so will better analysis methods!” says Bruce Allen.

Bruce Allen pioneered new data analysis methods and computing techniques for gravitational-wave discovery, some of which are also now used world-wide to detect and interpret other types of astrophysical signals including pulsars and exoplanets. In the 1990s he helped to found the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and led its first data analysis working group. Methods he developed were used for the first direct detection of gravitational waves (GW150914) and for all subsequent discoveries. Allen founded and directs the Einstein@Home volunteer computing project, which over 15 years has harvested idle computing cycles from half-a-million volunteers to search for new neutron stars. His AEI department also operates Atlas, the world’s most powerful dedicated computer cluster for gravitational-wave data analysis.

Bernard Schutz has developed important principles for the observation of the Universe with gravitational waves and plays a leading role in the development of both earth-based and space-based gravitational-wave observatories. He started to work on gravitational-wave data analysis in the 1980s and performed the first coincidence analysis of data taken from two prototype interferometers in 1990, demonstrating early versions of the methods that are still used today. He pioneered the use of supercomputers to solve Einstein’s field equations and study black holes. His work showing how to measure distances to gravitational-wave sources and using this to measure the Hubble constant was honored with the Royal Astronomical Society’s 2019 Eddington Medal and by his election in 2019 to the US National Academy of Sciences.

The annual Richard A. Isaacson Award in Gravitational-Wave Science recognizes outstanding contributions in gravitational-wave physics, gravitational-wave astrophysics, and the technologies that enable this science. It consists of $5,000, a certificate, travel reimbursement and a registration waiver to attend the APS April 2020 Meeting to give an invited talk and accept the award.

Bruce Allen

Bruce Allen studied Physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and obtained his PhD at Cambridge University, UK in 1984. He was a Research Assistant Professor at Tufts University from 1987 to 1989. After that he joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he was promoted to Professor of Physics in 1997. He is a director and scientific member at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Hannover since 2007 and an honorary Professor of Physics at Leibniz Universität Hannover since 2008. Bruce Allen has been awarded the 2016 Special Breakthrough Prize (shared with LIGO Scientific Collaboration) and the 2016 Lower Saxony State Award (shared with AEI directors A. Buonanno and K. Danzmann).

Bernard Schutz

After studying physics at Clarkson University, New York, USA, Bernard Schutz obtained his PhD in 1972 at the California Institute of Technology. After 21 years at Cardiff University, Wales, UK as Lecturer and Reader and Professor for Physics and Astronomy he became one of the founding directors of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute; AEI) in Potsdam in 1994 and played a major role in building up the institute until his retirement in 2014. His Astrophysical Relativity department made major contributions to supercomputer simulations of black hole collisions and to the algorithms used today for gravitational-wave searches. Currently he is director emeritus at the AEI, and professor of physics and astronomy in Cardiff. Bernard Schutz has been awarded the 2016 Special Breakthrough Prize (shared with LIGO Scientific Collaboration). In 2019 he was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences and was awarded the Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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