On Monday, March 13, 2023, CIERA welcomed 350 in-person and over 300 remote gravitational wave researchers to Northwestern University for the spring meeting of the LIGO-Virgo-KAGRA (LVK) collaboration. The largest conference CIERA has ever organized, the LVK meeting took over the Norris University Center and ran through Friday, March 17. “The LVK Collaboration Meeting was a success!” said Dr. Zoheyr Doctor, CIERA Board of Visitors Research Assistant Professor and Chair of the conference’s Local Organizing Committee. “Over that week, gravitational-wave scientists from all over the world shared their plans and ideas for how to understand the universe through these ripples in spacetime.”
On Monday and Tuesday, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty members and research scientists shared findings and compared techniques in over 20 parallel group meetings. On Wednesday and Thursday, participants gathered together for collaboration-wide presentations during plenary sessions, with Friday consisting of a daylong hybrid workshop for a particular gravitational-wave research area.
The March 2023 LVK meeting marked the last time that scientists working with the LIGO (Hanford, WA and Livingston, LA), Virgo (Italy), and KAGRA (Japan) gravitational-wave observatories would gather before the detectors are turned back on in May. In the time since the third observing run ended in spring 2020, LVK researchers have equipped their detectors with new technologies and optimized their approaches, setting the stage to hear far more signals from the cosmos than ever before.
Complementary to the conference, collaboration member and former LIGO Spokesperson Dr. Gabriela Gonzalez engaged over 75 attendees at a public lecture on March 14 in Norris’s McCormick Auditorium. Her talk, “Gravitational Waves, Black Holes, and the Machines that Detect Them” provided an introduction to gravitational waves, told the story of the first observation, explored the phenomena that produce gravitational waves and offered a peek into the future of the field.
On Wednesday evening, conference participants gathered for a networking dinner at the Skokie Banquet and Conference Center. During the event, CIERA Post-Baccalaureate Scholar Darsan Swaroop Bellie and a five-piece jazz band featuring renowned musicians including Bienen School of Music Faculty member Jeremy Kahn performed live music for the LVK Collaboration. The performance included an original composition by Bellie, “Dance of the Black Holes”, directly inspired by the creation and detection of gravitational waves. The piece’s performance served as the launch of Bellie’s new Star Eyes Initiative which seeks to communicate new science to the public through music.
Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive, with one reporting that “this was one of the best organized collaboration meetings I can recall attending (and I have attended pretty much every one since 1997). Well done, and kudos to the CIERA team for putting together a great conference!” The March 2023 LVK meeting would not have been possible without the hard work of the local organizing committee (LOC): Dr. Zoheyr Doctor (Chair), Madeline Wilson, Dr. Kari Frank, Dr. Vicky Kalogera, Chase Kimball, Dr. Sharan Banagiri, Jennifer Sanchez, Darsan Swaroop Bellie, William Vercellone, Serena Moseley, Dr. Michael Stroh, Janet Lyons, and Alexandra Lenox, as well as our massive team of temporary employees, non-LOC CIERA staff, and graduate and undergraduate students from CIERA and beyond. Special thanks also to the staff at the Norris University Center, Northwestern IT, and Compass Catering Group for their above and beyond help!