Dr Stephen R Taylor
Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University
Gravitational Wave Astrophysicist
The new frontier of astrophysics
The highly relativistic dynamics of systems of massive compact
objects like neutron stars and black holes can create ripples in
the fabric of spacetime. These ripples are gravitational waves, a
prediction of Einstein's 1915 General Theory of Relativity. A
prediction that is now fact.
Gravitational waves are a window onto the warped side of the Universe, allowing us to glimpse Black Holes and test fundamental physics.
The orbital decay of the binary pulsar B1913+16 was the first evidence for gravitational radiation, garnering the 1993 Nobel Prize for Russell Hulse and Joe Taylor. Almost a quarter of a century later, Kip Thorne, Rai Weiss, and Barry Barish won the Nobel Prize for their work on LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory), which made its first detection of a binary black hole merger in 2015, and many more since.
Titans of Relativistic physics
These black holes are formed in the cataclysmic merger of galaxies. My research is shedding new light on the properties, environments, and histories of massive black hole mergers. Observing these needs a gravitational-wave detector in space (LISA, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, circa 2034), or (for the truly supermassive ones) a network of pulsars spread throughout the Milky Way that can be timed to extraordinary precision (a PTA, Pulsar Timing Array, online now!).
Hacking the Milky Way to forge a nanohertz gravitational wave detector
Some pulsars spin as fast as a kitchen blender, whipping beams of radiation into our line of sight to be detected in our radio telescopes as a "pulse". These cosmic lighthouses are incredibly stable. By tracking timing deviations, we can search for the fingerprint of nanohertz gravitational waves that distort spacetime between the pulsar and the Earth. These timing deviations are correlated across all pulsars in the Milky Way, allowing us to sit at the center of a vast detector web.
My academic path, interests, metrics, and publications
MPhys Physics [1st Class] (2010)
Jesus College, University of Oxford
PhD Astronomy (2014)
Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2014-2017)
California Institute of Technology (2017-2019)
52 publications (12 of which are first author)
>3900 citations, h-index=31, i10-index=47
91 oral presentations
54 invited seminars, colloquia, and plenaries
Co-chair, NANOGrav Detection Working Group
Member, NANOGrav Management Team
NANOGrav Representative, IPTA Steering Committee