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Investigating Gravitational Waves with Data from LIGO

Students learn about the physics of gravitational waves and how they are detected, and then use real data from a global network of gravitational wave observatories to perform their own personal research investigation.

Made Possible by...

  Pioneer Academics gives curious and engaged high school students the opportunity to participate in guided learning and an individual research project, along with earning college credit. The Gravitational Wave Open Science Center makes data available to the public from a global network of gravitational wave detectors, along with access to software tools and tutorials for the analysis of these data.  

Program Description

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) was created as a cutting-edge physics experiment to test Einstein's theory of relativity by directly detecting the faint vibrations of space-time caused by coalescing black holes or colliding neutron stars. In 2015, twenty years after construction began, LIGO finally made the first detection of gravitational waves. Now LIGO and partner observatories make it possible to study the universe in a completely new way from traditional astronomy.

Students in this program learn how gravitational waves can be created and how they are detected. They learn how LIGO processes the data from the detectors and how the weak signal of distant cosmic events can be extracted from the din of background noise. Students then use real data from the LIGO observatories to perform their own personal investigation into the science of gravitational waves.

Program Leader: Eric Myers [Bio] [vitae] [LinkedIn] [Staff Info]

How it works

Students first meet with the instructor as a group, using Zoom, for five 90 minute sessions that provide them with background information about gravitational waves and technical information about LIGO. After the group meetings each student meets with the instructor individually for five or more sessions as they work on their own individual research project. Each student writes a final paper, in the form of a scientific report, which provides the reader with background information sufficient to understand the goals of the research paper, followed by a description of the methodology used and an interpretation of the analysis and results of the investigation.

Student Papers

Read about the results of each student's investigation, in their own words:


Supervised Learning Algorithms for Gravitational Wave Data Classification
by Rakibul Chowdhury
How sensitive is optimal matched filtering to spin parameters in a template?
by Shreya Hegde
Verifying the Time Lags of LIGO Detection
by Hongyi Zhang
Is GW170817A Real? Investigating the Detection Confidence of GW170817A
by Yuxiang "Jack" Zhang


Investigating the relation between merger times, masses and spins of binary black hole
and binary neutron star coalescences
by Pranjal Gehlot
Gravitational Wave Detection: Event GW170814 and the performance of matched filtering
and χ2-consistency testing in the presence of Gaussian noise, non-Gaussianly distributed noise,
and transient glitches
by Vinh Nguyen
Investigation and analysis of Proposed Event GW170817A using gravitational wave data
to posit its signal plausibility and merger characteristics
by Yash Kothari
Measuring Human Activities with LIGO Data
by Harry Yu


Significance of Optimal Matched Filtering in Detection of Gravitational Waves
by Erim Esref Hakki
LIGO's Possible Application in Seismology
by Jiawei Qiu
Using LIGO data to plot a map for multiple events
by Langqing Yi


Predicting LIGO's (the Laser Interferometer GravitationalWave Observatory)
future performance using past data
by Yue Pan
LIGO's Ability of Detecting Low Mass Gravitational Wave Sources
by Jingyi Zhang


Investigation and Analysis of Gravitational Waves Using Data from the LVT151012 Event
by Joalda Morancy
Examining Controversy Over the First LIGO Detection
by Kriti Verma


Could LIGO Have Heard the Event GW150914 Before Its Upgrade?
by Minqi Fu
The Possibility of Earlier LIGO to Detect GW150914
by Zhehao Lu


LIGO: Power Main Disturbance Research
by William Li
Analysis for Recovered Compact Binary Coalescence Hardware Injections
by Jinghong Liang
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