Sarah Caudill ’06: member of the “Discovery of the Century” research team

Alumna Sarah Caudill '06 is a member of the team for "Discovery of the Century."
Alumna Sarah Caudill ’06 is a member of the team for “Discovery of the Century.” This file photo is from her Stetson senior research presentation.

The global scientific community is buzzing with excitement about the long-awaited direct detection of gravitational waves from two colliding black holes, announced by the LIGO collaboration at the National Press Club on Thursday, Feb. 11. Stetson University physics graduate Dr. Sarah Caudill ’06, was in attendance at the announcement as a co-author on the Physical Review Letters article where the technical details of the discovery were published. LIGO is an acronym for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, developed and operated jointly by Caltech and MIT.

Gravitational waves were predicted by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity published in 1915. This discovery now opens up a whole new window on the universe and could revolutionize our understanding of black holes, neutron stars and other astrophysical objects.

While at Stetson, Caudill spent a summer at Caltech working on the LIGO project as a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) intern in 2005. During her senior year, she presented her LIGO work on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., at the prestigious Posters on the Hill event sponsored by the Council on Undergraduate Physics (CUR). “In the morning Sarah and I got a chance to lobby congress, including senator Bill Nelson’s office, in regard to undergraduate research in general and the LIGO project in particular, said Kevin Riggs, Ph.D., professor of physics and senior research mentor to Caudill. “In the afternoon she presented her poster of the work she did for the Caltech LIGO internship. This work was also the basis for her senior research project at Stetson.”

After graduating Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Stetson University in 2006, Caudill completed a Ph.D. in gravitational wave physics at Louisiana State University in 2012 under the direction of Dr. Gaby Gonzalez. Gonzalez serves as the official spokesperson for the LIGO collaboration.

Currently, Caudill is a postdoctoral researcher with the Center for Gravitation, Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and is an ongoing member of the LIGO collaboration.

Submitted by Dr. Kevin Riggs, professor of physics and senior research mentor to Caudill ’06