December 31, 2016

Eugenio Coccia

cocciaEugenio Coccia is director of the Gran Sasso Science Institute (INFN Center for Advanced Studies) and professor of Physics at the University of Rome Tor Vergata. He is experimental physicist with a focus on the detection and study of gravitational waves.

Over 100 years ago, Albert Einstein predicted that gravitational waves could be detected, when he published his theory of general relativity. Einstein’s theory states that large objects can alter the fabric of space and time, just as a rock causes ripples when dropped into a pool of water. Gravitational waves, or the ripples in spacetime, would be created when two massive objects, such as black holes, came into contact. In the beginning of 2016, physicists detected the gravitational waves, what is believed to be one of the biggest scientific breakthroughs.

Eugenio Coccia is one of the authors of the discovery of gravitational waves, carried out by the LIGO-Virgo collaboration. He was also Director of the INFN Laboratories of the Gran Sasso and President of the Italian Society of General Relativity and Gravitational Physics. He led experiments on the Explorer gravitational wave detector at CERN and on the Nautilus detector at the INFN’s laboratories. Since 2006, he has been participating in the experiments with the Virgo gravitational wave interferometer in Italy.

He is also Chair of the Gravitational Wave International Committee (GWIC) and member of the Council of the European Physical Society. He is the author of about 270 scientific articles and editor of six books in the field of astroparticle physics. For his contributions in this research, in 2012, he was awarded the “Giuseppe Occhialini” prize of the Institute of Physics and the Italian Physical Society, honored by Italian President in 2011 and received number of other national and international acknowledgments.

Thoughts on the detection of gravitational waves:

This is an exciting and unforgettable moment: I have spent 35 years of my life in this research. Detecting gravitational waves and proving the existence of black holes all in once is wonderful. Humanity has now a new sense: from now on we will not only see the cosmos, but also listen to its vibrations, its music.