One of the fastest growing fields in astrophysics is gravitational waves – what scientists call ripples in the fabric of space-time, first predicted by Albert Einstein in 1915.
A hundred years later, in September 2015, they were actually detected by ultra-sensitive lasers.
But others are searching for gravitational waves with pulsars – the dead relics of massive stars. Astronomers detect pulsars by the radio pulses they emit at regular intervals.
Enter Justin Ellis, just 30 years old, from a rural area outside of Charles Town in Jefferson County, WV.
“I work on gravitational waves and pulsar timing,” said Ellis at his lab. “Gravitational waves are a major prediction of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity and many other theories of relativity other than Einstein.”
Ellis is one of only a small group of scientists worldwide looking for gravitational waves using pulsars. Once detected, gravitational waves will lead to a revolution in astrophysics and astronomy – rather than looking at the universe, scientists will also be listening to it.
As an Einstein Fellow, Ellis is working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The 3-year post-doctoral fellowship is among the world’s most prestigious fellowships in astrophysics. And he’s the only West Virginian ever to win the lucrative award. He also has an appointment at the California Institute of Technology.