Cardiff Physicist given prestigious US Award

Source: Charly W Karl (via Flickr)

By Holly Giles

After nearly 40 years working on gravitational physics, Professor Bernard Schutz has been well rewarded this month with the prestigious Richard Isaacson Award in Gravitational-Wave Science. This $5000 dollar award is worth so much more than the money, including a press release and scientific conference where Schutz will be invited to share his findings in Spring 2020.

The man behind the work:

Bernard Schutz (age 73) has had a lifelong love of physics, having graduated with a Physics degree from Clarkson University and then a further Ph.D. from Caltech in 1972. He then moved to Cardiff University and built a research group studying the stability of neutron stars. This then led to a move to Germany, where he set up the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics. He was the director for this centre until his retirement in 2014, when he returned to Cardiff. He now holds a part-time professorship at Cardiff University (both in the School of Physics and Astronomy and the Data Innovation Research Institute) as well as being the Emeritus Director for the Max Planck Institute and an Adjunct Professor of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Despite these commitments and responsibilities, Schutz has also completed his own research, supervised upcoming scientists, written three books and co-authored nearly 300 referenced papers. His resume is not only impressive in content but in his commitment to his field, his subject and his colleagues.

His Science:

Gravitational waves are a concept first proposed by Einstein nearly a century ago but they were only detected in September 2015 in Schutz’s team. Schutz explains his work as “signal hunting” where he finds signals buried in background noise and then extracts information from them. “My contribution to gravitational wave science has been to understand what information these very weak signals could contain and then to try to perfect our ability to recognize and extract the signals that Nature provides for us, against detector noise. Although our detectors are wonderfully quiet, detecting signals and understanding what they tell us requires as much information as we can get beforehand about what the signals might look like. This involves using supercomputers to make models of sources of gravitational waves, inventing clever analysis methods to match signals with these supercomputer predictions, and keeping up with the latest information that other astronomers and astrophysicists can provide” explains Schutz on his blog, The Rumbling Universe.

The award: 

The citation provided by the society explained Schutz received the award for “pioneering and decisive contributions to the development and successful implementation of analysis techniques required to detect and interpret gravitational-wave signals”. This citation captivates the heart of Schutz’s research; to understand Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves, why they occur and how we can see them better.

In response to receiving the award Schutz said: “I am delighted that the American Physical Society recognises our long-term contribution to gravitational-wave data analysis”. This is an amazing result not only for the physicist and his team but also to Cardiff University, where he has spent over 21 years. 

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