Prof Mark Hannam
Numerical Relativity and Gravitational-Wave Astronomy
Numerical Relativity involves solving Einstein's equations of general relativity on a computer, and one of the most exciting current applications is to model two black holes that orbit each other, inspiral together, and merge to form a single black hole. The reason this is so topical is that these simulations are the only way to predict the gravitational-wave signal from black-hole mergers, and, in turn, we need to know what these signals look like if we are to have any hope of detecting them in gravitational-wave detectors, which are now getting sensitive enough that we hope to make the first detections in the next few years. That will mark the true beginning of the field of gravitational-wave astronomy --- which will surely provide yet more challenges for numerical relativists.
I studied at Waikato and Canterbury Universities in New Zealand, and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in the USA. During my PhD I numerically solved the equations necessary to provide the initial conditions for simulations of collisions of black holes.
After I completed my PhD in 2003, I embarked on a research world tour, stopping at the University of Texas at Brownsville; the Friedrich-Schiller-University in Jena, Germany; University College Cork, Ireland; and the University of Vienna, Austria. In 2010 I came to Cardiff as an STFC Advanced Fellow, and became a professor in 2015. In 2015 I was also awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant to study precessing binary black holes.
I currently supervise two PhD students, Sebastian Khan (2012-) and Gernot Heissel (2013-), and co-supervise Alistair Muir (2014-) with Steve Fairhurst. My previous student Patricia Schmidt (2010-14) is now a postdoc at Caltech.