In June, July, and August I was almost daily engaged in the application of evolutionary computation to glitch classification at LIGO. I worked extensively with Marco Cavaglia and his students Hunter, Luciano, and Kentaro for this effort.

We wrestled with the data, trying to find new ways to extract features which provide stronger correlations. We made progress, got lucky a few times, but more often than not hit dead ends which forced us to circle back to the start.

The joy of this arduous process is complex, for it entails both a passion for success and failure, the two faces to discovery. My professor too often said, “Research is hard” as a badge of honour, a mark of the fearless and brave and dedicated. Yet he failed to say “Research is rewarding!” As a recent New Scientist article presented, it is the people we work with that make most jobs tolerable. I am fortunate to have the best of both–an incredibly engaging challenge conducted with incredibly engaging people.

I have the joy of working with some of the brightest and the best, the funniest, the most seasoned and the most juvenile. We laugh far more than we do argue, yet we celebrate only long enough to realise our mistake and then dive back into another seemingly endless, dark tunnel. The phone calls, the TeamSpeak meetings, the hundreds of emails that keep us going. For with each communication we are challenged to prove our findings, we are challenged to be better at our job than we were before. No one ever says, “That is good enough.” Always, the challenge is for more. Higher accuracy. A stronger correlation. An improved better dataset. Better writing, presentation, and publication.

This week I will officially engage as a “Visiting Scientist” at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona where I am working under Dr. Michele Zanolin and with Marek Szczepanczyk, PhD candidate and chair of the supernovae group at LIGO.

Together, we are applying evolutionary computation, genetic programming in particular, to the classification of Coherent Wave Bursts (CWB) in LIGO data. While we have just begun, only a few data runs in our shared experience, we know the work will be long, challenging, and more likely to fail than succeed. But it is the people with whom I am working which compels me, as much as the prospect of success. If I can play a small part in the team which may, some day, detect supernovae using gravitational wave astronomy, then that small part will be an honour indeed.