Einstein's theory of general relativity predicts ripples in the fabric of spacetime caused by the motion of masses across spacetime. These ripples, known as gravitational waves, have an observable effect on the spacetime in which we live. Gravitational waves stretch and compress spacetime by incredibly small amounts. A gravitational wave produced by some of the most dramatic astrophysical events in our universe would cause a change in the distance between us and the nearest star that is the width of a human hair. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) seeks to detect these minuscule changes in spacetime caused by gravitational waves using a kilometer-sized interferometer. The first direct detection of gravitational waves from a binary black hole merger 1.3 billion years ago occurred on Sept. 14, 2015. This monumental discovery was also the first direct observation of a binary black hole merger.  Madeline Wade was fortunate enough to be part of this historical moment in science!

Wade is a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and works as a data analyst on the experiment. She works on calibration of the LIGO interferometers, identifying noise transients in LIGO data, and searches for gravitational waves from the inspiral and merger of two massive, compact objects, such as neutron stars and black holes.

Areas of Expertise

Gravitational-wave physics, astrophysics, data analysis


2015 — Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin - Madison

2014 — Collegiate Teaching Certificate from the University of Wisconsin - Madison

2009 — Bachelor of Science from Bates College

Courses Recently Taught

Gravity is at once the most familiar and most mysterious of the basic forces of nature. It shapes the formation, structure and motion of stars, galaxies and the cosmos itself. Also, because gravity affects everything, it enables us to investigate parts of the universe that are otherwise invisible to us. This course will explore the role of gravity in a few vibrant areas of contemporary astrophysics: the search for planets beyond our solar system, the discovery of giant black holes in the nuclei of galaxies, the generation and detection of gravitational waves and the evidence for dark matter and dark energy in our universe. In addition to the scheduled class lectures and discussions, students will be required to meet a few times during the semester for evening laboratories. 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 wave 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 will 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: concurrent enrollment in PHYS 135. Offered every fall.

This lecture course is the first in a three-semester, calculus-based introduction to physics. Topics include the kinematics and dynamics of particles and solid objects; work and energy; linear and angular momentum; and gravitational, electrostatic and magnetic forces. PHYS 140, 145 and 240 are recommended for students who might major in physics and is also appropriate for students majoring in other sciences and mathematics, particularly those who are considering careers in engineering. The course will be taught using a combination of lectures, in-class exercises, homework assignments and examinations. This course is required for the Physics major. Prerequisite: concurrent enrollment in MATH 111, (if not previously taken) and PHYS 141 (first-year students) or PHYS 131 (sophomore students). Open only to first-year and sophomore students. Offered every fall.

This seminar will explore a significant current topic in physics that will challenge 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 will expose 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. This course 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.

This laboratory course is a corequisite for all students enrolled in PHYS 135 or 145. The course meets one afternoon each week and is organized around weekly experiments demonstrating the phenomena of waves, optics, X-rays, and atomic and nuclear physics. Lectures cover the theory and instrumentation required to understand each experiment. Experimental techniques include the use of lasers, X-ray diffraction and fluorescence, optical spectroscopy, and nuclear counting and spectroscopy. Students are introduced to computer-assisted graphical and statistical analysis of data, as well as the analysis of experimental uncertainty. This course is required for the Physics major. Prerequisite: PHYS 131 or 141 and concurrent enrollment in PHYS 145. Offered every spring.

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 will introduce 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 will learn to implement these techniques in the computer language C, a widely used high-level programming language in computational physics, and for some techniques students may also learn implementations in the computer language Python, In addition, the course will expand 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 permission of instructor. Offered every spring.

In this course we develop further the basic concepts of electricity and magnetism previously discussed in PHYS 240 and introduce mathematical techniques for analyzing and calculating static fields from source distributions. These techniques include vector calculus, Laplace's equation, the method of images, separation of variables and multipole expansions. We will revisit Maxwell's equations and consider the physics of time-dependent fields and the origin of electromagnetic radiation. Other topics include the electric and magnetic properties of matter. This course provides a solid introduction to electrodynamics and is a must for students who plan to study physics in graduate school. This counts toward the theoretical elective for the major. Prerequisite: PHYS 245 and MATH 213. Offered every other year.

Individual studies may involve various types of inquiry: reading, problem solving, experimentation, computation, etc. To enroll in individual study, a student must identify a physics faculty member willing to guide the course and work with that professor to develop a description. The description should include topics and content areas, learning goals, prior coursework qualifying the student to pursue the study, resources to be used (e.g., specific texts, instrumentation), a list of assignments and the weight of each in the final grade, and a detailed schedule of meetings and assignments. The student must submit this description to the Physics Department chair. In the case of a small-group individual study, a single description may be submitted and all students must follow that plan. The amount of work in an individual study should approximate the work typically required in other physics courses of similar types at similar levels, adjusted for the amount of credit to be awarded. An individual study course in physics is designed for .25 unit of credit. Individual study courses should supplement, not replace, courses regularly offered by the department. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the end of the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of the proposed individual study preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval before the established deadline. Individual studies do not count towards the QR (quantitative reasoning) requirement. If a student wishes to satisfy the QR requirement through an individual study in physics, they must receive approval through the college petition process.