Einstein’s theory of general relativity reimagines gravity as a consequence of the curvature of spacetime caused by matter rather than an attractive force between objects with mass. In his theory, moving masses can cause wave-like oscillations in spacetime called gravitational waves. Gravitational waves are important to scientists because they carry vital information about gravitating sources.

Gravitational waves were first detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) in the Fall of 2015. These waves originated in the collision of two colliding black holes 1.3 billion lightyears away. In addition to coalescing black hole binaries, LIGO is also sensitive to binaries consisting of neutron stars. Encoded within the gravitational waves from these collisions is information about their source that might otherwise have remained a mystery.

Leslie is a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. His research includes searching for gravitational waves from massive black hole binary systems. He also works on estimating the source parameters of binary neutron-star systems in an effort to determine the neutron-star equation of state.

Areas of Expertise

Gravitational-wave physics, astrophysics and computational physics.

Education

2015 — Doctor of Philosophy from Univ of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

2009 — Bachelor of Science from Bates College

Courses Recently Taught

This course introduces the modern understanding of the solar system, including planets, moons and smaller bodies (asteroids, comets, meteors). Topics include planetary interiors, surface modification processes, planetary atmospheres and the evolution of the solar system. Evening laboratory sessions utilize a variety of methods for exploring space-science topics, including telescopic observations, computer simulations and laboratory investigations. This course does not count toward the physics major. No prerequisite.

This laboratory course meets one afternoon each week and is organized around weekly experiments that explore the phenomena of classical mechanics and electromagnetism, including motion, forces, fluid mechanics and conservation of energy and momentum. Lectures cover the theory and instrumentation required to understand each experiment. Experimental techniques emphasize computerized acquisition and analysis of video images to study motion. Students are introduced to computer-assisted graphical and statistical analysis of data as well as the analysis of experimental uncertainty. Except in rare instances, this course does not count toward the physics major. Prerequisite: concurrent enrollment in PHYS 130 (or PHYS 140 for sophomores enrolled in PHYS 140). Offered every fall.

This course is the second in a one-year introductory physics sequence. Topics include wave phenomena, geometrical and physical optics, elementary quantum theory, atomic physics, X-rays, radioactivity, nuclear physics and thermodynamics. When possible, examples relate to life science contexts. The course combines lectures, in-class exercises, homework assignments and examinations. Knowledge of calculus is not required. This course does not count toward the physics major. Prerequisite: PHYS 130 and concurrent enrollment in PHYS 136. Offered every spring.

This laboratory course meets one afternoon each week and is organized around weekly experiments that explore the phenomena of waves phenomena, geometrical and physical optics, elementary quantum theory, atomic physics, X-rays, radioactivity, nuclear physics and thermodynamics. Lectures cover the theory and instrumentation required to understand each experiment. Students continue to develop skills in computer-assisted graphical and statistical analysis of data as well as the analysis of experimental uncertainty. This course does not count toward the physics major. Prerequisite: PHYS 131 and concurrent enrollment in PHYS 135. Offered every spring.

This seminar explores a significant current topic in physics that challenges first-year students. The topic varies from year to year. In the past, the seminar has explored such topics such nanoscience, astrophysics, particle physics, biological physics and gravitation. In addition to introducing the fundamental physics connected with these topics, the course exposes students to recent developments, as the topics are often closely related to the research area of faculty teaching the seminar. The seminar meets one evening a week for lectures, discussions, laboratory experiments and computer exercises. This course fulfills the concurrent laboratory requirement of PHYS 140 and serves as solid preparation for PHYS 146. It is required for the physics major. Prerequisite: first-year students who are concurrently enrolled in or have placed out of PHYS 140. Offered every fall.

As modern computers become more capable, a new mode of investigation is emerging in all science disciplines using computers to model the natural world and solving model equations numerically rather than analytically. Thus, computational physics is assuming co-equal status with theoretical and experimental physics as a way to explore physical systems. This course introduces students to a variety of computational methods, which could include the methods of computational physics, numerical integration, numerical solutions of differential equations, Monte Carlo techniques and discrete Fourier transforms. Students learn to implement these techniques in the computer language C, a widely used high-level programming language in computational physics. For some techniques, students may also learn implementations in the computer language Python. In addition, the course expands students' capabilities in using a symbolic algebra program (Mathematica) to aid in theoretical analysis and in scientific visualization. This course is required for the physics major. Prerequisite: PHYS 240 and MATH 112 or equivalent. Offered every spring.

This course begins by revisiting most of the Newtonian mechanics learned in introductory physics courses but with added mathematical sophistication. A major part of the course is spent understanding an alternate description to that of the Newtonian picture: the Lagrange-Hamilton formulation. The course also covers the topics of motion in a central field, classical scattering theory, motion in non-inertial reference frames and dynamics of rigid body rotations. This counts toward the theoretical elective for the major. Prerequisite: PHYS 245 and MATH 213. Offered every other fall.

From particle accelerators to galaxies and stars to the big bang, high-energy particle physics and astrophysics address the sciences' most fundamental questions. This course covers topics of contemporary relevance from the combined fields of cosmology, astrophysics, phenomenological particle physics, relativity and field theory. Topics may include the big bang, cosmic inflation, the standard model of particle physics, an introduction to general relativity, and the structure and evolution of stars and galaxiesâ€™ stellar structure and galactic evolution. This counts toward the theoretical elective for the major. Prerequisite: PHYS 350. Offered every other spring.

Section 01 (0.25 units): In this course, students conduct research, synthesize and share experiences, attend professional presentations in the department, and present their research orally and in writing. Students complete three to four hours of independent research per week under the supervision of a faculty member and participate in discussion sections and other commitments as designed by the instructor. This course does not count toward any major requirement. Permission of instructor required. Offered every semester.\n\nSection 02 (0.5 units): This section carries the same requirements as Section 01, except that the time commitment is six to eight hours of individual research per week under the supervision of a faculty member, in addition to participation in other commitments as designed by the instructor. This section represents a significant commitment to a research project. Enrollment requires consultation with the department chair. This course does not count toward any major requirement. Permission of instructor required. Offered every semester.

This capstone course is intended to provide an in-depth experience in computational approaches to an individual topic of choice. Students will also be exposed to a broad range of computational application through presentations and discussion. Each student will give several presentation to the class throughout the semester. Permission of the instructor and program director required. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. Prerequisite: SCMP 118 or PHYS 270, senior standing, completion of at least 0.5 units of an intermediate course and at least 0.5 units of a contributory course.