Gonzalez

Gabriela González


Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Louisiana State University
Spokesperson, LIGO Scientific Collaboration
Licenciada, (~M.Sc.), University of Córdoba, Argentina, 1988.
Ph.D., Syracuse University, 1995.


Phone: (225) 578-0468
Email: gonzalez@lsu.edu





Research

My research is on detection of gravitational waves. I am a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in Louisiana State University, where there is a large group of people working on the subject, both in theory and experiment. LSU is only 30 miles away from the LIGO Livingston Observatory (picture on the left). The LIGO project, funded by the National Science Foundation, is building gravitational wave detectors in two observatories, one in Hanford, Washington, and another in Livingston, Louisiana. The detectors are essentially very long  Michelson interferometers (4km, or 2.5 miles long!), which will detect minuscule differential changes in the length of the arms when a gravitational wave arrives to Earth, bringing information from astronomical events very far away. Near 100 Hz, the LIGO detectors are able to detect changes in  distance smaller than 10-19 meters in the difference between the 4km long arms. 

According to general relativity, gravitational waves are ripples in spacetime that are produced when massive astronomical objects suffer violent processes, like black hole collisions. These ripples travel almost unperturbed through the universe, and when they pass through the Michelson interferometers, they affect the fringes in them. Being able the "view" the universe through these ripples of spacetime will open a complete new window to the universe.

I have been a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) since 1997, and in 2011 I was elected as its spokesperson. My group is involved with the characterization of the noise in the LIGO detectors, with the calibration of the detectors, and with the analysis of the data. In analyzing the data, I search for the waves produced by binary systems of compact stars in the last orbits of their cosmic dance, before coalescing into a single black hole.You can find out more about me below, and more about the science of gravitational waves in ligo.org,  in the complete list of publications of the LSC, and in the description of our latest results.

Background

I was born in 1965 in Córdoba, Argentina. I attended the University of Córdoba to pursue my "Licenciatura" (similar to a M.Sc.), and graduated in 1988. I moved to Syracuse University in 1989, where I got my Ph.D. with a wonderful advisor, Peter Saulson, measuring the Brownian Motion of a Torsion Pendulum (as an example of the application of the Fluctuation Dissipation Theorem to predict the spectrum of thermal noise, as we do for gravitational wave detectors). When I graduated in 1995, I went to work with the MIT-LIGO group in 1995 as a staff scientist. I joined the faculty of Penn State in 1997, and the faculty of Lousiana State University in 2001.

I am married to Jorge Pullin, who is the Hearne Chair Professor of Physics at LSU. I guess we are a living example that Einstein was wrong when he said that gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love, since we met studying his gravity theory! You can read some details about our story in Physics World .

You can find me in the movies too! Not in Hollywood, but in a brief documentary movie made by the National Science Foundation, called "Einstein's Messengers", and in a video posted in a very nice web documentary made by the American Museum of Natural History in one of their  Science Bulletins (look for the Astro feature story in Nov 2004). If you want any further information, contact me!