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.

Candidates for the award are to be self-nominated, with the support of a senior member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC). Awardees will be selected from the pool of nominees by a rotating committee of three LSC experts, including committee members with expertise in calibration and detector characterization, based on a pre-set rubric informed by the instructions below.

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.

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 2023 LIGO Laboratory Award for Excellence in Detector Characterization and Calibration is November 1, 2023.

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 | 2020 | 2022

The letter of support (suggested length 1-1.5 pages) should be submitted by 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 to the broader fields of physics, astrophysics, and astronomy. Stronger letters tend to articulate impact in detail. 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.
  • Nominee(s) should arrange for only one letter of support, although letters may be co-signed by more than one supporting senior LSC member. Please take care to account for unconscious biases in letter writing.  For example, here is a helpful guide on avoiding gender bias in letters that also has some generally applicable suggestions.


Selection Committee

  • Selection committee members generally serve three year terms, staggered to have a new member rotate on to the committee each year.
  • New committee members are nominated and selected by current committee members.
  • Each committee member is limited to serving two consecutive terms (i.e., six years of service). Most members serve a single term.
  • The selection committee is organized by an independent, long term award facilitator who does not participate in the award selection process.