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Deadline: 2014-05-23
Location: Birmingham, UK

PhD positions in Gravitational Waves at the University of Birmingham

Applications are invited for two PhD positions in gravitational-wave related projects. The positions are funded by the European Marie Curie Initial Training Network GraWIToN ( and provide very attractive salary and mobility opportunities. Only non-UK candidates are eligible, no previous experience with gravitation-wave projects is required. The closing date for applications is 23.05.2014.

Informal enquiries may be addressed to Andreas Freise (a.freise[AT] and Ilya Mandel (imandel[AT] For information about our group, see

To download the details and submit an electronic application online, please go to and quote the Job References 52271 or 52272.

Project 52271

Title: Computational modelling of advanced laser-interferometric gravitational wave detectors

Our research group at the University of Birmingham specialises in precision measurements with laser interferometers. We have leading roles in the optical design of large international projects and do tests of new optical technologies in our own laboratory experiments with small prototype laser interferometers. The largest and most precise laser interferometers today are ground-based gravitational wave detectors. The most advanced of these machines, Advanced LIGO, will start operation in 2015. Our group is involved with the installation of the instrument, using numerical simulations to understand unexpected problems with the optics. At the same time we are investigating new optical technologies for future detectors such as the Einstein Telescope. Our group investigates new optical designs to mitigate the effects of beam shape changes, and the quantum optical coupling between the light and the optics. We develop and provide one of the main simulation packages for the international science community

The specific objective of this project is to perform a new implementation of an optical simulation code that will enable accurate prediction of mirror surface effects as well as photon quantum effects. The model shall be implemented using GPU-based libraries making the software accessible to experimentalists and designers for rapid prototyping work patterns. In collaboration with Trii Technologies we will provide the student with the necessary knowledge and support to leverage the latest GPU-based technology. The student will work closely with experimentalists in Hannover, Glasgow and Pisa to develop and execute test plans for suspended, quantum-limited interferometers.

Project 52272

Title: Studying neutron-star and black-hole binaries with gravitational waves

Gravitational waves will provide a unique way to explore the Universe — to observe in detail a variety of astrophysical and relativistic phenomena. Advanced ground-based gravitational-wave detectors will go beyond just making the first detections of these elusive signals. They will allow us to expand our reach in space and time, and provide answers to deep questions about astrophysics and strong-field general relativity. Our group at the University of Birmingham leads the preparations for source analysis, data analysis, and astrophysical interpretation that will enable us to take full advantage of the wealth of information that will be available.

Gravitational waves from mergers of compact binaries composed of neutron stars and black holes encode the parameters of the source: binary component masses and spins, as well as the binary’s sky location, inclination, and the distance to the binary. Accessing this information is critical for enabling astrophysical inference, but is very challenging because of the multi-modal, multi-dimensional nature of the parameter space. Our group led the successful effort to enable parameter estimation for the initial generation of ground-based gravitational-wave detectors using sophisticated Bayesian techniques. However, parameter inference on signals from advanced and third-generation detectors will bring a new set of challenges. The in-band duration of gravitational sources will increase significantly, from tens of seconds for binary neutron stars in initial detectors to tens of minutes in advanced detectors to days in third-generation detectors. Analyzing such long data streams will be prohibitively computationally expensive without innovative techniques. Methods will need to be developed to deal with potential data drop-outs, changes in noise properties, calibration changes, or glitches over the course of the long signals. The motion of the detectors on the sky as a result of the rotation of the Earth will need to be considered for the first time. The high signal-to-noise ratio that some sources are likely to have in advanced detectors will mean that proper handling of systematic biases from imperfect waveform models is critical. This project will address these challenges while providing an opportunity to explore binary astrophysics and learn sophisticated Bayesian data analysis techniques such as Markov-chain Monte Carlo and nested sampling.