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

Education

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 explores 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 are 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 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 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 concurrent enrollment in PHYS 135. Offered every spring.

This lecture course is the first in a three-semester, calculus-based introduction to physics (PHYS 140, 145 and 240). 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 is recommended for students who might major in physics and is appropriate for students majoring in other sciences and mathematics, particularly those who are considering careers in engineering. The course combines lectures, in-class exercises, homework assignments and examinations. This course is required for the physics major. Prerequisite: concurrent enrollment or credit for MATH 111 and concurrent enrollment in PHYS 141 (first-year students) or PHYS 131 (sophomore students). Open only to first-year and sophomore students. Offered every fall.

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.

This laboratory course is a corequisite for all students enrolled in PHYS 145. The course meets one afternoon each week and is organized around weekly experiments exploring 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 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 permission of instructor. Offered every spring.

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 or permission of instructor. 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.