Hi, my name is Akshat Singhal and I belong to Delhi, India and currently working on data analysis of continuous sources of gravitational waves under the umbrella of one of the finest researchers in the field in University of Rome, la Sapienza Italy under my supervisors Dr. Paola Leaci and Dr. Cristiano Palomba. I am in my second year and expected to finish my thesis around October 2018.

My work in essence is to develop a new and efficient pipeline which can look at the data coming from the gravitational wave detectors and analyse whether or not it contains a continuous gravitational wave from neutron stars in binary orbit; and, if yes, its origin.  Since the motion of the neutron star causes the frequency of the gravitational wave changes. This fact makes it challenging because these pipelines can be very computationally expensive or in other words would require a lot of computational resources. Electromagnetic astronomers who study neutron stars orbiting around other companion stars share the behaviour of the motion of these neutron stars to their best accuracy. However for a low strength gravitational wave hunter, even these small region of uncertainties are a large gaps of unknowns. In order for a pipeline to correctly detect the gravitational wave, it has to remove the variation in frequency due the orbital motion of the neutron star but, unless the motion is not precisely known the signal cannot be corrected accurately. The accuracy required in these pipelines are usually finer than the ones provided by the electromagnetic astronomers. My thesis is about generalising the existing pipeline of detecting isolated pulsars to also include binary pulsars. This I have achieved by modifying existing pipeline which uses 5-vector method with help of  a Matlab tool box named Snag developed by Prof. Sergio Frasca who is one of the pioneer in this field. Currently I am running few tests to understand the robustness of this generalised method. In the end we are expected to get the maximum tolerance allowed in the inaccuracy of the binary orbital motion and min amplitude or the strength of the signal this method is sensitive to.

I had chance of being part of several conferences, workshops and few schools organised under the project GraWIToN.  One of theses workshops on advanced detectors was held in Isola (island) Elba. Undoubtedly it was one of the most beautiful place I ever visited. After every morning session there would be a 3hr lunch break where everybody would join in the beaches. Although this workshop was out of my field since I belong to the data analysis group, I got to understand the functioning of the various instruments and what makes their setup so challenging. Most of the workshops after this I participated in were oriented into data analysis. One of the data analysis workshop was organised by my home institute specially which was quite insightful on the topic. The fun thing about schools are that after the lectures and discussions are over we often hangout together in the evening and the later discussion takes place in a very informal way.  This was also a time when I tried my experience to be in a freely falling frame, i.e. sky diving.

A new thing was started where Italian and French researchers were brought on a same platform for more interaction. Everybody was divided in to 3 groups and I was part of the group headed by Dr. Frédérique Marion. I learned a lot from her. The last GraWIToN project was on the Project management and by all means one of the most enjoyable workshop so far. After a long time all the GraWIToN students came together. We shared ideas from public outreach to potential task which must be done by a project manager in a large scale project.

Eventually when my simulations and analysis start producing presentable results, I took the opportunity present my results in the Virgo week which takes place in Virgo Cascina. It was an experience which taught me few presentation skills which were useful in later presentation. This skill was very useful when I had to present the poster of my thesis in the GWPAW event in Annecy. Another beautiful place to host a conference, it had a very nice lake and beautiful streets to hang around. Then came the event for which I was preparing for a long time; The LVC meeting. The face 2 face meeting is known for low tolerance on unexplained information or false data due to poor implementation. A lot of fruitful discussions later I was hardened to be a better researcher. I met many old friends, got a chance to take a tour of CERN. It was good to see how seemingly two different fields can come together for a common goal. And who can forget that CERN is also a birth place for world wide web (www), I was surely not going to miss that chance.

Finally it was the time when 2 breaking news hit the media back to back where the confirmation of an event named GW170814 was announce which also coincident with the Virgo detector. It was a reason for a big celebration in the group and I felt proud to be a part of one. Not much later Nobel prize was announced to the 3 founders of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory (LIGO) and the observation of gravitational waves to Rainer Weiss, Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne. I am sure this announcement will inspire many young budding researchers in the future.

I had to say that being part of the Marie Curie project GraWIToN was a life changing event. I got so much exposure, met elite researchers of their field and most importantly got the opportunity to contribute to this great endeavour. Over all it was a wonderful program which brings researchers from different fields come together and train in a multi disciplinary project. The training schools and the workshops organised were well directed in to creating researchers skilled enough for next generation detectors. I believe more projects like these will be needed as the we move towards the era of 3rd generation+ detectors.

Additional information