In the blink of an eye, Summer 2016 became Summer 2017.

This year the autumn has a special meaning, it doesn’t just sign the end of the Summer, but also the end of a much more important “season” for me, GraWIToN.

Even though this won’t mean the end of my PhD, which will probably happen during the spring of the next year, this marks an important change to my life as early stage researcher.

The GraWIToN project has been giving me an incredible opportunity for growing from both a professional and personal point of view and for this I am deeply thankful to everybody who has contributed in realising this Gravitational Waves Initial Training Network. In particular I would like to thank the Project and Scientific Coordinators, Michele Punturo and  Elena Cuoco, and the Financial Officer & Project Assistant, Erika Morucci who accompanied us during all these intense 3 years, in one of the most significance experience -at least- of my life.

With GraWIToN, the Marie Curie Actions programme has allowed me to put myself on the line, in a unique stream of experiences.

The programme is openly valuing mobility and interactions. Main consequence for me: moving from my little village (~500 people) in Trentino to Birmingham (the second city for population in UK). From the personal point of view, I had to forget that not many years before I tried moving to Bologna for the master in astrophysics and that I couldn’t last more than 3 months away from home, so homesick I was.

Anyway, after have taken several deep breaths -and not only-, I started my PhD programme in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Birmingham. The environment here is very different from the one I was used to, at the University of Trento. The group is much larger, so that an incredible wide range of interesting research topics merge in this lively milieu.

Since the School is also very active, this diversity has reflected the several activities that have been organise, including schools and seminars, which have helped me in contextualising the field of gravitational waves and my research.

Here I met new people and meeting new people always enriches you deeper than you think.

This has become clear for me under different aspects, but one which stand out particularly is outreach. Outreach plays a big role in the School of Physics and Astronomy, especially for the growing group of the newly born Institute of Gravitational Wave Astronomy. I have been involved in several outreach activities as part of this group, even in the last months, such as: an Open Day, a workshop for school teachers in Cosford, 3 events of Astronomy in The City, Cheltenham Science Festival and Community Day. I have also been leading the organisation of the Astronomy workshop within the Physics Experience Week of this year and with, another colleague, within the Girls In STEM Day. Moreover I have been driving the design of the T-shirts for the Institute of Gravitational Wave Astronomy and I also participate, as LIGO member of the Birmingham group, to the Summer Science Exhibition run by the Royal Society in London.

They have all been very nice and interesting experiences, which have helped me in being more comfortable in presenting my research topic and field to different types of public.

At the School of Physics and Astronomy I have learnt a lot in terms of outreach activities and their organisation. In future I hope to develop such interests and knowledge to contribute to the public involvement in research in more comfortable environments, especially where outreach is still untapped.

Within the busy environment of the School I have also developed independence in my every day research activities and learnt to promote myself and my work at conferences.

But GraWIToN for sure has done much more than inserting me in the School of Physics and Astronomy.

GraWIToN is first of all a network of PhD students, coming from all over the world.  Together we attended the several Network Schools that have been organised to give us a common and basic background on the GW astronomy and technology. During those periods we have got to know each other and to grow together from both the personal and professional points of view.

Our network has been developed in a much larger one, generally dedicated to developing the gravitational wave science. Despite the dispersion of this broad and final goal, we were anyway able to build some small but direct connections, between people working on similar aspects of the GW field. For example, I am in contact with Shubanshu Tiwari to test and develop a classification tool aimed in flagging eccentricity in gravitational wave signals produce by the coalescences of compact objects.

The GraWIToN schools have also been promoting the importance of outreach activities. For example in last School (the Project Management School), we spent an afternoon with high school students developing ideas to use for promoting the GW science. The experience was not only very interesting and fun by itself, but it also gave me the possibility of meeting two extraordinary experts of the science communication: Xenia Fosella and Daniele Molaro. Thanks also to Elena Cuoco, I also had the chance of working more directly with them, inside the project “Meet the Scientist” promoted by B:kind at Liceo Pesenti, by leading a seminar on GWs to an high school class.

As probably some people already know, all these opportunities have completely changed my approach to outreach. I still remember my silence during the first encounter with outreach during the first GraWIToN school, while now I am regularly involved in such activities, even outside the Birmingham group.

For example in the last months I was invited to give a talk on the GW discovery for Lions Club Trento Clesio and Lions Club Trento of the Concilio and, thanks to Michele Punturo, I also went at EUCYS 2016 in Brussels, to represent the GraWIToN project at the European Commission Sponsor desk. The experience was incredibly interesting, not only from the divulgation point of view, but also for remembering that science is even broader than astronomy. There indeed I  met Miguel Bosch Pita, that made me re-discovering the great interests I have been having on mind and its mysteries.

Since last summer, the GraWIToN project has also allowed me to travel and disseminate my research in several conferences. I presented my results on the project aimed in speeding up the parameter estimation of compact binary coalescences at the “21st International Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation” at the Columbia University. It was a very exciting experience, which also resulted in me winning the James B. Hartle Award for the best student presentation at session C2 at the 21st tri-annual conference of the society held in New York City and it also gave me the opportunity to visit the fantastic city of New York!

Since then, I have been more focused on promoting the project started with Marica Branchesi during the secondment, which indeed I presented on several occasions, giving talks at:

  • Numerical simulations meet gravitational waves: astrophysics and fundamental physics with neutron star mergers, workshop organise at University of Birmingham to start collaboration with the Frankfort University,
  • Workshop SGRB 2016 at University of Trento,
  • IV congresso nazionale GRB in Bergamo,
  • GWPAW 2017 in Annecy;
  • Virgo week - remotely;
  • call within the electromagnetic working group of the LVC,

and presenting a poster at:

  • LVC meeting of March 2017 in Pasadena.

The project I have started during my secondment, represents most of my current research work. Indeed in the last few months we finalised into two publications both the works on the first case of signal classification in burst searches and acceleration of frequency domain waveform generation in the context of parameter estimation for compact binary coalescences.

The completion of these two works has required a lot of efforts and further investigations, with compared to what we expected, however I am now very proud for having achieved in both the studies, the maturity necessary for publication.

Thank to our paper “Accelerating gravitational wave parameter estimation with multi-band template interpolation ”,  I have been also recently asked to write ‘Insight’ piece to be published on CQG+.

As I was saying, after the submission of the two papers, my research has been focused on developing a tool, that we named “SAPrEMO” (Simplified Algorithm for Predicting Electro-Magnetic Observations). The project is the result of the secondment I spent in Urbino, which I described in my previous newsletter.

Summarising, the final goal of the tool is to elaborate information on a particular emission to determine how many events should be present in a given survey of data. The tool takes as inputs the expected light curve, a rate model on source events and main properties of the survey of interest.

It calculates number of detectable events, their flux and durations.

The algorithm has been developed (up to this Summer) by considering as detections the events which have fluxes higher than the sensitivity of the survey. The code constructed under this assumption is already written in a tool-functioning level and it is ready for being tested and applied to specific surveys. However we have recently started a parallel implementation, considering a different detection criteria, based on fluxes  integrated over time and also energy. The development of such code has required a deep manipulation of the excusing code, and it is therefore in a developing stage.

As mentioned before, I also started working with Shubanshu Tiwari, for outlining a procedure in the cWB burst search, to identify eccentricity in chirping signals.

I have also been involved in a project aimed in predicting the rate and the mass distributions of binary black hole using the population synthesis code (COMPAS) here developed. In this project I have been collaborating in interpreting results to outline prospects for the future Einstein telescope.

I have also recently contributed to the draft of THESEUS’s white paper. THESEUS is a concept mission for the ESA call for medium-size mission (M5) in the context of the Cosmic Vision Programme. It will be equipped by a large FOV (~1sr) Soft X-ray Imager, which makes it particularly suitable for following up gravitational wave candidates. Several theoretical scenarios have indeed predicted X-ray emissions associated to compact binary coalescences (especially involving neutron stars). Therefore, with possible detections in coincidence with gravitational waves, THESEUS would have the capabilities of playing a key role in determining which of the proposed models (if any), well suits the reality.

Finally as part of LIGO, I also kept being involved in the general wok of parameter estimation for gravitational waves emitted by compact binaries by attending call and conferences, presenting the multi-banding algorithm (which is now ready for being reviewed) and by running some PE analysis for the second observing period O2 of the two LIGO interferometers.

Inside the LIGO community I have also I have been elected as student representative in the LAAC (LIGO Academic Affair Council), where I am collaborating in divulging activities, available material and organising the LAAC sessions during the LVC meetings.

Inside the LVC, as student representative, I have also started thinking about how will be possible to involve more students and young postdocs in the collaboration work. Indeed it feels to me that connections between senior people and students are often lacking.

I am thinking of promoting the development of a summary page for the day, containing the main news concerning the collaboration. In fact at the moment the most efficient way for following updates is following the enormous amount of emails that are exchanged within the different working groups, which usually ends up with discussions between few people, and anyway are hard to follow (given the quantities).

With all these activities going on, I am “slowly” arriving to the end of my PhD and to my stay in Birmingham.  Working here has been a bit harder than I expected, but it has deeply enriched me.

Also, by understanding the aspects of this experience that I have liked and the ones I haven’t, it also helped me realising which environments better fit my needs and make me more productive (and happy), clarifying what I should looking for in future research opportunities.

I am sure GraWIToN will have a great impact on my future, because of what it formally is and also the experiences that I have gained from it, including the connections I have made. Indeed I have really enjoyed the possibility of collaborating with different groups and working with competent and extraordinary people, as I did during my secondment.

In the end, I still have a lot of work to do before the end, but knowing how fast time runs in these situations, I am sure, another blink of the eyes won’t be able to pass before the end of this adventure.

Nevertheless, the end of a season always means the beginning of another one!

So while I believe it’s normal to feel a bit nostalgic for the experiences that the GraWIToN project has brought us and that will stop, I am excited to see what will happen next! What are going to be the news of the upcoming months, how my life will change, where I am going to be, which new people I am going to meet and what I am going to do!


See you soon in the WORLD!





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