Finite Element Modeling: The ideal design of a physics experiment involves the measurement of a single, independent process or parameter. However, in practice the experimenter is often required to work with complex geometries and multiple competing physical processes. For example, in our measurements of coating dissipation, we are measuring a multilayer stack of different materials that have multiple methods for losing energy. To ensure that we understand the physics and to help us interpret our measurements, we develop finite element models of these systems. These models divide the geometry into small geometric entities composed of a single material where the physics is well understood. These elements are then recomposited to reveal the macroscopic behavior of the sample. Forming finite element models can be quite challenging and computationally demanding, but they are essential for understanding the complicated systems in our research.
Controls: The 40 kilogram mirrors in Advanced LIGO are some of the most isolated objects ever created. Any motion in these mirrors is suppressed by a multi-stage control system that allows the entire interferometer to be brought online and function with maximum sensitivity to gravitational waves.
Improvements to these controls systems must be made for both Advanced LIGO and Cosmic Explorer to achieve even greater levels of sensitivity. Syracuse works on improvements in controls measurements, modeling, and more stable actuation and sensing schemes that will lead to an overall reduction of interferometer motion and better sensitivity to astrophysical black hole and neutron star mergers.