Esteemed gravitational wave scientist appointed head of School of Physical Sciences

Peter Veitch

An internationally esteemed scientist who helped detect gravitational waves produced by the merger of two black holes has been appointed the University of Adelaide’s Head of School for physical sciences.

Professor Peter Veitch is the Leader of the University of Adelaide node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav) and a senior scientist within the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.

He was elected a Fellow of the Optical Society of America ‘for development of techniques essential to the successful high optical-power operation of gravitational wave detectors and contributions to Advanced LIGO’, which made the historic detection.

Professor Keith Jones, Executive Dean, Faculty of Sciences, said Professor Veitch was an outstanding scientist with a global reputation well suited to lead the School of Physical Sciences teaching and research in chemistry, earth sciences and physics.

“Professor Veitch was part of a global team of researchers who for the first time, in 2015, detected gravitational waves – the ripples in space and time caused by cataclysmic events in the distant universe that were predicted by Einstein in his general theory of relativity 100 years ago,” Professor Jones said.

“His 40 years of research worked towards that ground-breaking detection and provided undeniable proof that Einstein’s gravitational waves and black holes exist.

“The finding marked the beginning of the new field of gravitational wave astronomy and is offering new insights into the Universe and its evolution.”

“I am thrilled that the student and academic communities of the University of Adelaide will benefit from Peter’s knowledge, expertise and leadership as Head of School.”

Professor Veitch’s research interests include the development of advanced wavefront sensors and adaptive optics for Advanced LIGO in collaboration with the LIGO Laboratory, and advanced high-power lasers and sensors for the next generation of gravitational wave detectors.

He also researches the development of pulsed mid-infrared lasers for industrial, remote sensing and defence applications, and the development of lidar for methane sensing from airborne platforms.

Professor Veitch said he was honoured to be appointed Head of School and was looking forward to working with a wide range of highly accomplished colleagues in the school and the wider University community.

“The teaching and research activities in this school are central to STEM training in SA; it has an excellent national and international reputation, and we will be looking to forge closer links with industry and defence,” he said.

The School of Physical Sciences comprises more than 350 people across teaching, research and professional activities. Professor Veitch commences his position on 1 May 2020.

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