The LIGO Laboratory Award for Excellence in Detector Characterization and Calibration


About the Award

This award recognizes outstanding early career researchers who have made impactful contributions to gravitational wave astrophysics through LIGO detector characterization or calibration.

All astrophysical gravitational wave results, from signal detection to source-property estimation through population estimates, critically depend on a deep understanding of the detector noise and data calibration. Detector characterization efforts are responsible for improving the performance of all astrophysical analyses by mitigating the effect of complex and constantly evolving noise sources originating from the detectors' control systems or their local environment. Additionally, accurate calibration with well-understood uncertainties critically enables astrophysical source property-estimation, including sky localization, distance, mass, and spin.

Awardees will receive a total of $1,000 and each awardee will be granted a travel award to present an invited seminar on their research at one of the LIGO Laboratory sites: Caltech, MIT, LIGO Hanford, or LIGO Livingston. Note that due to the current pandemic, invited seminars will likely be hosted remotely.

The LIGO Laboratory Award for Excellence in Detector Characterization and Calibration is the sole external award sponsored by the LIGO Laboratory to highlight the critical and fundamental importance of detector characterization and calibration to the broader astrophysical sciences.

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Award Dates and Deadlines

The nomination deadline for the 2020 LIGO Laboratory Award for Excellence in Detector Characterization and Calibration is Monday October 26, 2020.

The LIGO Laboratory Award for Excellence in Detector Characterization and Calibration will be awarded annually in late autumn, with the nomination deadline announced during or near each autumn LIGO-Virgo-KAGRA Collaboration meeting.

The invited seminars will typically take place within two months of the award date (by March 1 of the following year). Recipients will receive a certificate from the LIGO Laboratory Director at the following LIGO-Virgo-Kagra collaboration meeting, usually held in mid-March.



Graduate students (Masters or PhD) and postdocs within the LIGO Scientific Collaboration working on LIGO detector characterization or calibration projects are eligible for the LIGO Laboratory Award for Excellence in Detector Characterization and Calibration. Nominations may include work conducted up to three years prior. Prior nominees may submit the same project more than once for consideration.

Nominees can be individuals and/or small teams of 2-3 people. Teams may include senior members, but senior members are not eligible for the monetary/travel award.


Instructions for Nominations

Nominees should arrange to send the following documents in advance of the nomination deadline to

  1. A summary of a well-defined and delivered contribution to LIGO characterization or calibration efforts, written by the nominee(s)
  2. A letter of support from a senior member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration

The summary of achievement (suggested length 1-2 pages) should be submitted by the nominee, written in first person, and include:

  • A clear, succinct, high-level title that captures the project described in your nomination for the general public (ideally 10 words or less)
  • A brief description of the delivered LIGO detector characterization or calibration project, including the motivation, the investigations, studies, or other work conducted, the results and outcomes, and your role(s).
  • A summary of the impact of the outcomes or delivered improvements on LIGO Scientific Collaboration results.
  • Note that stronger nominations tend to focus on a single project or theme.
  • Examples of summaries from past successful applications: 2018, 2019

The letter of support (suggested length 1-1.5 pages) should be submitted by the nominator (a senior LSC member) and address:

  • The nominee's or nominees' individual contributions to the nominated project
  • The impact and significance of the nominated project to the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the broader fields of physics, astrophysics, and astronomy. For example: As a result of this work, the LVK collaboration was able to report more confident detections; conduct an astrophysical analysis for the first time; achieve the unprecedented sensitivity required to probe new physics; etc.
  • Note that stronger letters tend to articulate the impact of the work on the broader scientific community in detail.
  • Please take care to account for unconscious bias in letter writing; we advise you to uniformly avoid referring to nominees by their first name. Here is a helpful guide on avoiding gender bias in letters that has some generally applicable suggestions.