Portrait of Dr Ian Harry

Ian Harry


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Gravitational-wave astronomy: Search methods, implications and future prospects

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Personal profile


I am a Reader in Gravitational Wave Physics situated in the Institute for Cosmology and Gravitation. The Institute focuses on trying to answer fundamental questions about the nature of the Universe we live in and some of the exotic objects that populate it.

I am a member of the Gravitational-Wave Physics group at the Institute. Gravitational waves provide an exciting new way of studying the Universe. They were detected for the first time in 2015, when a gravitational-wave signal (GW150914) from two colliding black holes was detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO). Since then 10 signals have been detected from merging black holes, as well as a signal originating from the coalescence of two neutron stars. This latter signal, called GW170817, was spectacularly observed across the EM spectrum, providing the first observation of an astronomical source with both EM and gravitational waves.

The gravitational-wave group at the ICG is part of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC). The LSC is made up of more than 1200 scientists, in over 100 institutes in around 18 countries. As part of the LSC we are searching for gravitational waves from colliding black holes and neutron stars, as well as other sources. In addition to detection, the group’s research focusses on developing techniques to detect gravitational waves from new sources, detecting gravitational waves from continuous sources, estimating the equation of state of neutron stars, and characterising the LIGO detectors. Our research also looks at extracting astrophysical and cosmological information from the observed gravitational-wave signals to learn more about our Universe.

In addition to the LSC, we are also involved with the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) consortium. I am the PI of the Portsmouth, ICG LISA group. We are also working on the science case for a future ground-based gravitational-wave detector called Einstein Telescope.

Research Interests

My research focuses on developing methods to observe gravitational waves, understand the astrophysical implications of current gravitational-wave observations and exploring the prospects of future gravitational-wave observatories. Particular research areas of mine include:

* Searching for very high mass "Intermediate-mass" binary black hole collisions with gravitational waves.

* Searching for precessing neutron-star black-hole mergers with gravitational waves.

* Observing coincident gamma-ray burst and gravitational-wave signals

* Understanding the nature of neutron star internal physics from gravitational-wave observations

* Utilizing machine-learning technologies to facilite gravitational-wave data anlysis.


I obtained a first-class Mphys degree (with honors for being top of my year) in astrophysics at Cardiff University between 2003 and 2007. Following that I stayed in Cardiff to pursue a PhD in gravitational-wave astrophysics with Stephen Fairhurst between 2007 and 2011.


I then spent 7 years as a post-doc in the same field. First at Syracuse University in New York state, USA under the supervision of Duncan Brown, and then at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational-Wave Physics in Potsdam Germany under the supervision of Alessandra Buonanno. These opportunities to work abroad allowed me to work with a divers group of people in different environments and allow me to build collaboration and friendships that benefit me to this day.


Since November 2018 I am a Senior Lecture at the ICG in Portsmouth.

Teaching Responsibilities

I am currently co-teaching the second year "Computational Physics" course, introducing our students to the Python programming language, which is arguably the most useful computing language in the types of data science or analytics careers that many of our graduates will enter.

Media Availability

I'm happy to discuss and/or answer any specific questions about my research.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy


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