LIGO project: 2 Indian scientists in US excited about possibility of returning home

India, US sign MoU for setting up LIGO observatory in India

April 01, 2016 01:45 am | Updated November 17, 2021 02:28 am IST - Washington

Nancy Aggarwal and Karan P. Jani, two Indian student scientists who work with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) project that recently proved the existence of gravitational waves envisaged by Albert Einstein a century ago, are excited about the possibility of returning to India.

Both met Prime Minister Narenda Modi in Washington with other senior scientists from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that signed an agreement with the Indian Department of Atomic Energy and the Department of Science and Technology, to set up an observatory in India. The Union Cabinet had recently approved Rs 1200 crore for the project, and this will be the third LIGO observatory, and the first one outside of U.S that will come up. India and the U.S have been in talks on the project for nine years now. “Everyone is very excited,” Ms Aggarwal said.

“India is extremely important for the future of the LIGO project,” LIGO Director Dr. France A Cordov said after the meeting with Mr Modi. “This is a great example of India-US scientific collaboration,” Mr. Modi said.

“The prime minister asked us whether we could go to universities in India or to even lower levels and talk to students and arouse their scientific curiosity,” Mr Jani, a 27-year-old Ph D candidate at Georgia Institute of Technology said. “The Indian LIGO project opens up new possibilities for me that did not exist when I left India,” said Ms Aggarwal, Ph D candidate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said. Ms Aggarwal studied at Sachdeva Public School in Delhi and IIT Mumbai before joining MIT. She toyed with the idea of becoming an IAS officer. “But now physics is my life,” she said.

Mr. Jana went to a government school in Vadodara and then to Maharaja Sayajirao University to do B Sc in Physics before winning a scholarship to study astrophysics at the University of Pennsylvania.

India will join an elite league of countries that support research on gravitational waves with the new project. Besides the U.S, U.K, Italy, Germany and Japan have ongoing research in the area. Ms Aggarwal said the Indian project is still a long way to go, as it involves finding the right location and building massive physical infrastructure.

The two current LIGO Observatories are located at Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana and are operated by Caltech and MIT. The LIGO project is run with the collaboration of 90 universities and research institutions. Thirty people of Indian origin are part of the LIGO project. Ms Aggarwal said being the latest, the Indian one will turn out to be most advanced of all observatories technologically.

Exciting day: NSF chief

"Today is an exciting day because it offers the promise of deepening our understanding and opening an even wider window to our universe. This MOU is the first step toward an additional gravitational wave detector, located in India. With this new commitment to collaboration, NSF's Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (better known as LIGO), and its hundreds of associated scientists worldwide, are positioned to take this nascent field of gravitational wave science to the next level. Once in place, a third detector would be able to 'triangulate' the source of gravitational waves and thus make other, more detailed observations. We look forward to working closely with our Indian colleagues in this endeavor to further our knowledge of the most energetic phenomena in the cosmos," Ms. Cordov said in a statement issued later.

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.