PhD position in Gravitational Wave instrumentation - Optics

Reference: UCL-20-GW-IN-phd
Announced on December 15, 2020.

The gravitational wave (GW) group of the University of Louvain (UCLouvain, Belgium), hosted at the Research Institute in Mathematics and Physics (IRMP), is searching an outstanding candidate to fill a PhD position in optical mode matching using phase cameras for gravitational wave experiments.

The IRMP physicists of UCLouvain conduct research in fundamental interactions and cosmology on the experimental and theoretical fronts. More than 100 physicists and mathematicians from all over the world currently work at the IRMP. The UCLouvain GW group is part of the Virgo Collaboration at the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO) and is involved in an instrumentation project aiming to exploit phase cameras. The group also and participates in two research and development facilities, E-TEST and ETpathfinder, funded by the EU through its Interreg Europe programme, aiming to prepare the Einstein Telescope, which could be built at the frontier between Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany and start operations in the years 2030s. The UCLouvain GW group is also active in GW data analysis (searches for ultra-light dark matter, primordial black holes and stochastic GW background). These searches are being performed in collaboration with theory specialists and make use of the IRMP computing center (2500 cores and 1400 TB), which is shared with LHC experiments and projects in theoretical particle physics and cosmology.

The selected candidate is expected to take a leading role in two highly connected projects. Our group contributes to the currently ongoing Advanced Virgo+ upgrade by collaborating with Nikhef (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) to provide stable error signals for Virgo's Thermal Compensation System using Nikhef's phase cameras. Gravitational wave detectors run at ever increasing optical power, which has a thermal effect on the mirrors that act as thermally variable lenses. This can destabilise the optical signals used for controlling all the different cavities or change the shape of the input beams to these cavities, which causes optical losses - this is called mode mismatch. In parallel, an optical set-up installed in the laboratory of C. Lauzin at the IMCN institute of UCLouvain, will be built and developed over the years with the successful candidate. Its goal is to prove that phase cameras can be used to generate error signals for mode mismatch mitigation in coupled cavities at longer wavelengths than current detectors use: 1550 nm and/or 2090 nm, as future detectors move in that direction. A secondary involvement in the other activities (data analysis for instance) can be discussed. The appointment is for four years. Computing resources and support for travelling are excellent. Installation/ commissioning/ shift work at the Virgo site (near Pisa, Italy) and/or a few-month-long exchange with LIGO (USA) or KAGRA (Japan) may be required/arranged.

The position can start anytime after February 2020 and is open to candidates of any nationality. The salary is around 23 k€/year net free of taxes, and includes all social security coverage. Applications, which must include a curriculum vitae, a brief statement of research interests and at least two recommendation letters from senior scientists, should be submitted on-line, by 17 January 2020, at: The position will remain open after this first deadline until a suitable candidate is found.

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