Student Focus

Paul Marsh, Master of Science in Electrical Engineering (MSEE)  

Assistant Professor Joey Key, left, shows Jomardee Perkins and Paul Marsh a model interferometer that splits a green laser beam.(Marc Studer photos)

Assistant Professor Joey Key, left, shows Jomardee Perkins and Paul Marsh a model interferometer that splits a green laser beam. (Marc Studer photo)

Paul Marsh spent last summer working as a LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) fellow at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) - Hanford facility. Marsh discovered the opportunity through Jeff Kissel, a physicist and control engineer at Hanford, at an Astronomy on Tap event in Seattle in August of 2016. In the following months, he gained as much knowledge about the observatory as possible, spanning from mechanical and electrical engineering to optical physics, through e-mail conversations with Kissel and reading various academic papers.

Dr. Kissel put Marsh in touch with Dr. Joey Shapiro Key, Assistant Professor at UW Bothell, during the winter of 2017. Marsh quickly began working with Dr. Key attending lab meetings and tours, and then was made an LSC member, soon after making arrangements to volunteer at the facility in Hanford. Though his research focus differed from Dr. Key's, Marsh was exposed to her work in signal identification and statistical analysis. Key's work with LIGO was recently brought to our attention when the three founders of LIGO were awarded a Nobel Prize. 

Marsh tells the story of his time at Hanford "During my three months at Hanford, I had a number of duties. First, all fellows are expected to work 'shifts' in which they monitor the interferometer outputs for stability and glitches, and perform follow-up where necessary; I also took a few Data Quality shifts, where I expanded on this work and wrote follow-up reports to be stored in their system and referenced during offline analysis. Second, all fellows are required to perform 'rapid response' duties, where we quickly generate some environmental and timing system analysis in the event of a potential gravitational wave trigger; I actually performed these duties for the binary neutron star discovery in August. Third, I spent the first half of the summer investigating various aspects of the photon calibration system LIGO uses to estimate the response of its optical masses. Finally, I spent the latter half of the summer creating and using test procedures to qualify the oscillator, radio frequency mixing, and servo control electronics for their new squeezed light system (a system intended to reduce quantum phase noise through photon phase coupling). Time permitting, I gave tours and talks to visitors; I found the outreach aspect really fun."

Marsh remains interested in LIGO but plans to apply for doctoral programs in electrical engineering and materials science to follow up on research he conducted at UW Bothell with Assistant Professor Hung Cao. Marsh and Dr. Cao have been fabricating highly sensitive pH electrodes on flexible and biocompatible substrates, intended to be used for biomedical sensing or in water quality applications. They have already presented their work at several conferences, including IEEE Sensors in Scotland, and intend to submit a journal manuscript within the coming weeks. With further innovations being explored in self-referencing and wireless devices, as well as possible collaborations, the pair expect to be publishing more work before Marsh's thesis completion in June 2017.