Jacob Podkaminer ’08


by Steven Bodnar

Almost a decade ago, Jacob Podkaminer ’08 recognized that Associate Professor of Physics Steven Penn’s cutting-edge work with the Laser Interferometer Gravitationalwave Observatory (LIGO) Scientic Collaboration was deeply important.

But after six years immersed at a major research institution, Podkaminer says he’s able to view Penn’s research and the recent announcement of the breakthrough detection of gravitational waves in a whole new light.

“I have a much greater appreciation for what Steve’s been able to accomplish at a small liberal arts school like Hobart and William Smith. He never showed any doubt in the work he was doing,” says Podkaminer, who recently earned a Ph.D. in materials science from University of Wisconsin-Madison where he’s been studying nanomaterials for electronics.

A double major in physics and environmental studies with a minor in mathematics at HWS, Podkaminer was hired by Penn as an on-campus laboratory assistant for the LIGO project following his graduation.

“I was able to get a sense of the weight of the whole experiment,” Podkaminer recalls. “You understand that you have collaborators all around the world at major institutions. You get an understanding of how major the project is and how cool it is to be able to contribute in your own small way.”

In the lab, Podkaminer worked on Penn’s research to reduce the thermal noise in the material fused silica on the LIGO mirror substrates and suspensions, a critical contribution to the gravitational wave detection process used in the observatories.

“I have this great sense of pride and excitement for being part of that work,” Podkaminer says. great sense of pride and excitement for being part of that work,” Podkaminer says. “I was stoked for Steve when they announced the detection because it's something he's been involved in and passionate about for so long.


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