Met a Graduate Student
Nicholas Loutrel
Ph.D. Candidate, Physics

Nicholas was accepted into the 2016 East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes for U.S. Graduate Students, a National Science Foundation award program offering American graduate students the change to complete research abroad. He will traveling to Japan to conduct research with Professor Takahiro Tanaka at Kyoto University. They will be studying the spin precession of black holes in a particular modified theory of gravity called dynamical Chern-Simons (dCS) gravity. Nicholas explains a bit more about this research:

“dCS gravity is a parity violating theory, and as a result, black holes are only modified from Einstien’s theory of General Relativity (GR) when they are spinning. Ultimately, this project will aid us in understanding how to perform model independent tests of GR where modifications only effect spinning systems.”

Getting to Know NicholasPhoto of Nicholas

Hometown: Fairless Hills, PA

Education History:
B.S., Double Major, Physics; Astronomy & Astrophysics; Minor in Mathematics, Pennsylvania State University
M.S., Physics, Montana State University

Dissertation Title & Research Synopsis: Gravitational Waves for Highly Eccentric Binaries

Up until the first detection of gravitational waves with the event GW150914, General Relativity had never been tested in the regime where gravity is both strong and rapidly changing. Many modified theories of gravity are motivated by string theory, quantum gravity, early universe cosmology, and other high energy physics. In the regime where gravity is strong and rapidly changing, these modifications predict strikingly different phenomena from General Relativity, but are still capable of passing previous tests where gravity is weak, such as in the Solar System. My research, which focuses on gravitational waves and how to use them to test General Relativity, aids in our ability to constrain high energy physics and understand our universe at the most fundamental level.

Why did you want to attend graduate school? What drew you to Montana State University?
I decided to attend graduate school to further my interests in research and teaching. I chose Montana State University due to the quality of research performed in the Department of Physics as well for the social and close knit nature of the department.

If I knew then what I know now…advice to future graduate students
Make sure that you’re not only happy with what you will be studying, but also where you will be living. It will make your time in graduate school so much more rewarding.