SEAN T. McWILLIAMS

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY

DEPARTMENT OF PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY

MORGANTOWN, WV 26506

 
 

HERE YOU’LL FIND AN ABBREVIATED ACCOUNT OF WHO I AM, WHAT I DO, AND WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO ME.

 

WELCOME TO MY SMALL CORNER OF THE WEB!

 
  1. *[August 2016] I’ve been giving an unprecedented number of talks about gravitational waves all over the country in the past year, but I’ll be honored (and terrified) to be delivering the commencement address right here at WVU this year, which will definitely be a first for me!


  1. *[May 2016] There’s been an unbelievable amount of excitement about the detection of the first two gravitational-wave signals, and the possibility of a third, with LIGO’s three founding fathers, Ron Drever, Kip Thorne, and Rai Weiss, deservedly receiving numerous awards, with the Nobel hopefully coming in October.  However, the full collaboration (or at least those of us who were coauthors on the discovery publication) will share a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics (https://breakthroughprize.org/News/32)


  1. *[March 2016] Our recently established Center for Gravitational Waves and Cosmology has been awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Collaborative Research, and I’ve been named one of the Generation Next: 40 Under 40 by the State Journal for my work on gravitational-wave astrophysics, particularly LIGO.


  1. *[February 2016] LIGO DETECTED GRAVITATIONAL WAVES!  On the morning of September 14, 2015, the two Advanced LIGO detectors observed a signal from the final inspiral and merger of two ~30 solar mass black holes.  We have released the data at https://losc.ligo.org/events/GW150914/, and the detection paper and companion papers can be found at https://papers.ligo.org.


  1. *[March 2015] NANOGrav has been awarded a Physics Frontiers Center by the National Science Foundation!  WVU plays a leading role in NANOGrav, with Profs. McLaughlin, Lorimer, and myself being senior members.  More information on the award can be found here.


  1. *[May 2014] The Eastern Gravity Meeting, which I organized and which was held at WVU, May 15-17, was by all accounts a great success!  The conference website with all the relevant information can be found here.


  1. *[March 2014] WVU was just granted admission into the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, with myself as institutional PI.  Hopefully LIGO and NANOGrav (the other experimental gravitational-wave effort that I am a part of) will both detect gravitational waves in the very near future.


  1. *[November 2013] I just completed the last of four observing sessions (totaling 24 hours of data) using the Green Bank Telescope.  As a theorist, I’ve never led an observing project before, so this is a very exciting opportunity!


  1. *[October 2013] Our new supercomputing cluster, “Spruce Knob”, is up and running!  We have priority access to 350 cpu cores and 2500 gpu cores for dedicated use by the budding WVU theoretical gravitational-wave astrophysics group.


  1. *[September 2013] I have begun my position as an assistant professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at West Virginia University.  The department was just renamed to highlight the growing emphasis in astronomy.  Joining me will be two very talented postdoctoral research associates: Eliu Huerta, who received his PhD from Cambridge and most recently was a postdoctoral researcher at Syracuse University, and Fan Zhang, who received his PhD from Caltech just prior to arriving in Morgantown. 


  1. *[February 2013] I accepted a faculty position, and will be an assistant professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at West Virginia University starting this Fall.  I’ll be hiring a postdoc (hopefully one this year, and another next year), so please find the job ad here if you’re interested.  Also, I’ll be happy to take on a few students once I arrive in the Fall, so please feel free to stop by my office and discuss possibilities.


  1. *[December 2012] I submitted 5 papers in the last 3 weeks with various collaborators, definitely a personal best:

  2. -L. Hui, STM, and I. Yang, Binary Systems as Resonance Detectors for Gravitational Waves

  3. -STM, Black Holes are neither Particle Accelerators nor Dark Matter Probes, accepted to PRL!

  4. -W. East, STM, J. Levin, and F. Pretorius, Observing complete gravitational wave signals from    dynamical capture binaries

  5. -STM, J. Ostriker, and F. Pretorius for 2: Gravitational waves and stalled satellites from massive galaxy mergers at z < 1 and The imminent detection of gravitational waves from massive black-hole binaries with pulsar timing arrays

  6. *[May 2012] I was the lead organizer for a conference, Connecting the Gravitational Wave and Electromagnetic Skies in the Era of Advanced LIGO It brought together the communities of gravitational wave observers/theorists and observational astronomers, and was a big success by all accounts (that I heard, at least).

  7. *[December 2011] I presented a novel mission concept to NASA for an alternative to LISA at the recent Gravitational Wave Mission Concept workshop, Geostationary Antenna for Disturbance-Free Laser Interferometry (GADFLI) - if you’re wondering, Wikipedia defines a gadfly as “a person who upsets the status quo by posing upsetting or novel questions, or just being an irritant.”  Hopefully this concept is the right balance of novel question and irritant.

  8. *[November 2011] My paper, “Electromagnetic extraction of energy from black hole-neutron star binaries”, which proposes a completely new class of gamma-ray bursts, was  published in the Astrophysical Journal: Sean T. McWilliams and Janna Levin 2011 Astrophys. J. 742 90


  1. *[September 2011] My paper, “Sky localization of complete inspiral-merger-ringdown signals for nonspinning massive black hole binaries”, was published in Physical Review D: Sean T. McWilliams et al., 2011 Phys. Rev. D 84 064003


  1. *[June 2011] My review article, “The Status of Black-Hole Binary Merger Simulations
    with Numerical Relativity”, was published in Classical and Quantum Gravity:
    Sean T McWilliams 2011 Class. Quantum Grav. 28 134001 

RESEARCH NEWS