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Astrophysics researcher honored by L’Oréal USA

Laura Sampson contributed to historic detections of gravitational waves

(Video produced by L'Oréal USA For Women In Science)


EVANSTON - Laura Sampson, a Northwestern University postdoctoral fellow who contributed to last year’s historic detections of gravitational waves, one of the biggest discoveries in modern science, has been named a 2016 L’Oréal USA “For Women in Science” Fellow. She is one of only five nationwide to receive the honor this year.

Laura Sampson
Laura Sampson

The program recognizes exemplary female scientists for their contributions in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and for their commitment to serving as role models for younger generations. Sampson will receive a $60,000 grant to advance her postdoctoral research.

Sampson, a researcher with Northwestern’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA), develops data analysis algorithms to learn about the physical processes that lead to the systems that produce gravitational waves in the universe.

“Laura represents the future of astrophysics, as her research bridges data science methods and gravitational-wave studies,” said Vicky Kalogera, CIERA director and the Erastus O. Haven Professor of Physics and Astronomy in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Sampson is a member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) Scientific Collaboration, the team of international scientists and engineers that first observed gravitational waves. Gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of spacetime, were first predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916 and are a new way of observing the universe. LIGO detected gravitational waves for the first time in history Sept. 14, 2015, and again a few months later, on Dec. 25. In both cases, the waves were created by colliding black holes.

“Laura’s involvement in both LIGO and the NANOGrav collaboration, which is pursuing the first detection of gravitational-waves from supermassive black holes, gives her a uniquely broad perspective in this newly emerging field of gravitational-wave astronomy,” Kalogera said.

The L’Oréal USA fellowship will enable Sampson to extend her research appointment at CIERA, as well as work on a music-based mentorship program.