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WASHINGTON — The Optical Society (OSA) is pleased to announce that the Advanced LIGO Engineering Team is the winner of the 2016 Paul F. Forman Team Engineering Excellence Award. The discovery, which confirms Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, is among the most significant in the last century of physics and was made possible by photonics technology, including the ultra-precise laser-based interferometers used to measure gravitational waves. The team will receive the award during the plenary session at OSA’s Annual Meeting, Frontiers in Optics (FiO) / Laser Science (LS), which takes place in Rochester, New York, USA on 19 October 2016. Dennis Coyne and GariLynn Billingsley, California Institute of Technology, will be accepting the award at FiO/LS.
“For years, many members of The Optical Society have been actively researching this phenomenon of nature,” said Alan Willner, 2016 President of The Optical Society. “We heartily congratulate the LIGO Engineering Team on this remarkable achievement of gravitational wave astronomy. LIGO is an absolutely monumental research effort. Technical advances wrought by Advanced LIGO’s talented team of engineers who produced the unique ‘blend of optical, mechanical, electrical and systems engineering’ made possible this stunning achievement.”
Dennis Coyne, the Advanced LIGO Chief Engineer, California Institute of Technology, said, “After 20 years of dedicated effort, LIGO's direct detection of gravitational waves from a binary black hole merger is incredibly rewarding and exciting! This enormous discovery was only possible due to the visionary support of the National Science Foundation and the incredibly hard work of an extremely talented team of scientists and engineers. I am deeply grateful and proud to have played a part for the launch of this new field of observational cosmology.”
James C. Bergquist, Fellow of The Optical Society and The National Academy of Sciences, said, “I still smile whenever I think of the emotional ecstasy that must have swept over the entire LIGO Team, but especially her engineers, when they realized that, in spite of the rather noisy platform afforded by spaceship earth, their exquisitely sensitive interferometers, each a technical masterpiece and easily the most sensitive metrological instruments ever built, had worked flawlessly to finally reveal direct evidence of the existence of gravitational waves.”
Gravitational waves went from a whisper to a shout when detected in October 2015. Using advanced optics-based systems, the research team was able to measure gravitational waves on Earth, enabling them to pinpoint the precise moments they were produced. Unlike light, gravitational waves are not diminished by interstellar dust as they propagate through space. By detecting them, the research team is able to peer into the most energetic events of the universe and explore the cosmos in a completely new way. The project is a significant example of the best in international innovation and the team's continued research with Advanced LIGO will continue to impact the physical sciences for years to come.
The Paul F. Forman Team Engineering Excellence Award was established by The Optical Society in 1989 and has since been bestowed on dozens of outstanding researchers and engineers. Named in remembrance of Paul F. Forman, who, among many other accomplishments, effectively raised the visibility of optical engineering. This team award recognizes technical achievements such as product engineering, process, software and patent development, as well as contributions to society such as engineering education, publication and management, and furthering public appreciation of optical engineering. For more information on the award or the nomination process, visit OSA Awards.
Founded in 1916, The Optical Society (OSA) is the leading professional organization for scientists, engineers, students and entrepreneurs who fuel discoveries, shape real-life applications and accelerate achievements in the science of light. Through world-renowned publications, meetings and membership initiatives, OSA provides quality research, inspired interactions and dedicated resources for its extensive global network of optics and photonics experts. For more information, visit osa.org/100.