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Summer Visitors at LLO

Summer Visitors at LLO

- Contributed by Mark Coles

This is the fourth year that the LIGO Livingston Observatory (LLO) has had a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. This program makes it possible for students to undertake independent research projects at LLO under the mentorship of LLO staff. Each year, as our staff has grown and the interferometer has progressed from installation into commissioning and operation, the number of student participants has also grown. At the same time, students participating in the MIT Research program have also been hosted by LLO the last two summers, as have students participating in research at other LIGO Scientific Collaboration member institutions. This year the students are conducting investigations in a very broad range of areas. Examples include: mapping the modes of oscillation of the suspended test masses to find "sweet spots" for beam alignment; measurement of the optical absorption properties of sapphire; measurement of seismic motion with an eighteen element seismometer array to estimate the seismically induced gravity gradient noise; measurement of lock acquisition velocities of suspended test masses; and detailed measurements of optics motion that will lead to refinements of the end-to-end model of the interferometer.

This year we have seventeen undergraduate and graduate students participating in research at LLO.

Michael Baham. Robert Berry.
Caryn Bullard. Amber Bullington.
Dan Busby.
Ivan Christov. Raghuveer Dodda.
Michael Hu. Robert Johnston.
George Noid. Tina Perez.
Edrick Preddie. William Quarles.
Andrew Weber. Mark Sauerwein.
Jennifer Tu. Eric Villarino.

The students are housed at Southeastern Louisiana University. We are very grateful to the administration for making the Southeastern Oaks student housing complex available to our students for the fourth consecutive year. This makes it possible for the students to live in a campus environment with access to gymnasium, pool, library, and the social life available in and around a major college campus. See this web-page by Robert Johnston (a student participant from UT Brownsville) for a nice commentary on housing, the surrounding environment, and description of the work environment from a student perspective.

Resident of Honey Island swamp.

While each of the students has the opportunity for one-on-one interaction with a mentor, we have also organized an extensive series of summer lectures covering the physics of LIGO, astrophysical sources of gravity waves, and technical topics associated with the design, commissioning, and operation of LIGO. This year we have also scheduled two field trips in association with these lectures: to the 2 GeV synchrotron light source at LSU, which is used to characterize the impurities in sapphire test samples that may be used to form the optics of an upgraded LIGO interferometer; and to the ALLEGRO resonant bar gravity wave detector on campus in Nicholls Hall at LSU. You can view the schedule and lecture notes for this summer at

This year we also have three high school teachers participating in our Research Experiences for Teachers program. Each teacher has the opportunity to participate in the research activities of LIGO, working in the control room, assisting with the installation and commissioning of apparatus, and interacting with the LIGO staff in other ways to become knowledgeable about the LIGO program. They can then use this experience to enrich their classroom teaching in the fall. This has also resulted in the development of new curriculum materials, developed by the teachers that are posted here. These materials are enrichment activities that reinforce Louisiana State Science benchmarks, which are derived from the National Academy of Sciences benchmarks. The teachers have also constructed hands-on demonstrations that can be used by student visitors to LLO to reinforce concepts relating to LIGO.

Larry Blanchard. Donna Harrisson.
John Thacker.

We would also like to thank Sarah Berry, wife of SURF Fellow Robert Berry and an undergraduate at Utah State University, for her excellent assistance with administrative work in the front office this summer.

Sarah Berry.

A welcoming party for the LLO summer visitors was held June 22 to give everyone an informal opportunity to become acquainted and to experience great Louisiana cuisine. A few snapshots are given below.

Welcoming party 1. Welcoming party 2.
Welcoming party 3. Welcoming party 4.

Students interested in participating in the 2003 SURF program should look at where the details of next year's program will be posted this coming January. Teachers interested in participating in next summer's RET program should contact Mark Coles at

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