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5 Questions with Soumi De: PhD Student at Syracuse University

What is it like to be part of the biggest scientific discovery in recent years? We mean the Gravitational waves, which Einstein spoke about a 100 years ago. Soumi De, PhD student, researcher and member of the LIGO group, spoke to BrainGain magazine about her academics, and research work at Syracuse University, as well as her future plans.
BY Skendha Singh |   11-03-2016

Soumi De is a PhD student at Syracuse University, USA and a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC).

She completed her Masters in Physics from the University of Calcutta, and her Bachelors with Honors in Physics from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, before moving to Syracuse for her doctoral studies.

Currently in her first year of PhD, Soumi has been working within one of the two data analysis teams of the Compact Binary Coalescence group of LSC.

BrainGain magazine spoke to Soumi about her research work at the cutting edge of Physics and Astrophysics, what it felt like to be part of such a momentous discovery, and her plans for the future.
 

  1. What drew you to pursuing research at Syracuse University?

    From the research experience I had while I was doing my Masters in India, I was highly motivated to pursue my Doctoral studies in the field of Gravitational Wave Astronomy and Astrophysics. I was aware that Syracuse University was always renowned for its strong research in Gravity.

    The Syracuse group is one of the largest groups working in the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, a worldwide collaboration of scientists to detect gravitational waves. The group provides cutting edge research opportunities in a variety of topics like gravitational wave data analysis, theory, detector characterization and experiment, which provides students exposure to a broad spectrum of research.

    This was the primary reason which drew me to join the PhD program in Syracuse University. Also, the Syracuse University Physics Department graduate program welcomes students from different corners of the globe, which gives me a diverse environment to study in, enriching my academic experience on a global level.

     
  2. How did your studies in India prepare you for further studies in the US?

    The coursework for my Bachelors in Physics at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, and for my Masters in Physics at University of Calcutta was always very rigorous.

    The standard of education I received in these institutes trained and prepared me well for challenges encountered in higher studies in Physics. It truly helped me in meeting the standards set by the US grad school.

    While in India, I received fellowships from the Indian Science Academies. Also, the Visiting Student project at the Inter-University Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), gave me the opportunity to come in contact with a few faculty members, and also work on research projects under their supervision in fields like Gravitational Wave Astrophysics and Cosmology.

    Such experiences gave me a small glimpse into what life at graduate school would be like, and provided me first-hand research experience.

     
  3. Your research interests center on the physics of exotic objects. How big has the observation of gravitational waves been for you? How were you involved with the project?

    My research interests lie in the field of Gravitational Wave Astronomy and Astrophysics, i.e; detecting and studying gravitational wave signals generated from astrophysical compact objects like neutron star and black hole pairs orbiting around each other, merging with each other, and going the other way round; and in using these gravitational wave signals to study the Physics and Astrophysics of these sources.

    All observations in Astronomy so far have been done using electromagnetic waves. Observation of gravitational waves has opened a new window on the universe. This is the beginning of a new era in Astronomy, which would help us learn much more about our universe than could have been seen using electromagnetic wave Astronomy.

    I had just joined graduate school when LIGO received the gravitational wave signal on September 14 2015, and that gave a fantastic beginning to my doctoral studies in the Syracuse LIGO group. I have been working in one of the two data analysis teams of the Compact Binary Coalescence (CBC) group of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. Along with other members of the team, I helped in running the code which analyzed the LIGO observation run data searching for gravitational wave signals, in studying the results of the analysis, and then validating the September 14 detection.

    It was the results of the analysis of the detection produced by this code that was announced by the collaboration on February 11 2016.I feel fortunate to have got a chance to work for such a prestigious project.

     
  4. Please tell us about how you work with your supervisor Prof. Duncan Brown?

    I have been working on LIGO data analysis under the supervision of Prof. Duncan Brown.

    Prof. Brown’s data analysis research group collaborate with a number of other research groups within the LIGO Scientific Collaboration to form one of the data analysis teams in LIGO. The research projects we work on concern maintenance and development of the code used to analyze LIGO data, performing analysis on the data to detect and study gravitational wave signals from compact binary objects in the universe, and hence learn more of Physics and Astrophysics.

     
  5. What are your future plans?

    In the future, I want to continue my research in the field of Gravitational Wave Astronomy and Astrophysics. Gravitational wave science is exciting and this field will grow tremendously in the future, opening up many opportunities in research. Therefore, I would look for higher research positions in this field after my PhD.
 

--- Read more about Gravitational waves here and here ---


 

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