Lassonde grad sources components for instrumentation used to detect gravitational waves

Lassonde alumna Susan McCall’s work played a significant role in the process behind the detection of gravitational waves by Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). The detection, announced last week, was touted as one of the most important scientific discoveries of our time, cementing Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity and ushering in a new era in science. Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of time and space and are produced by massive objects such as stars and planets.

McCall received her master’s and doctoral degrees from the department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering at York University in 1992 under the supervision of Professor Gordon Shepherd.

Susan McCall

She is the founder and president of Stellar Optics Research International Corporation and a specialist in optical black surfaces/materials and optical scatter data. She also recently founded the York University Science Alumni Network.

McCall was contracted by Breault Research Organization to provide a list of candidates, glossy black materials and coatings for long-term, vacuum compatible use in the LIGO chambers while meeting the challenging optical scatter requirements of having Bidirectional Reflectance Distribution Function (BRDF) scatter values of less than 0.001, at large backscatter angles, for 0.6328 micrometers.

In addition to these challenging optical requirements, the materials had to be of reasonable cost and easy to install, given that there were to be 100 to 200 panels as large as 12 by 383 centimetres. McCall provided these samples for the Breault Research Organization and LIGO, thus contributing to the detection of gravity waves.

“The experience I gained from studying black surfaces for extreme environments, York U’s emphasis on multidisciplinary research, my brilliant mentors Dr. Gordon Shepherd, Dr. Robert Breault, and Dr. J. A. Dobrowolki were the essential keys that paved the way for SORIC’s products, contracts and sales with major companies, space agencies, and astronomical observatories around the world,” said McCall about her time at York University.