Kirsty Gardner is a postdoctoral fellow at UBC’s Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute (Blusson QMI). Working with Blusson QMI Investigator Jeff Young, Kirsty devises novel materials to improve ground-based gravitational wave detectors as part of the UBC Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) effort.

Image: Kirsty Gardner, Postdoctoral Fellow, Blusson QMI.

As part of UBC’s LIGO program, Kirsty works towards improving the performance of mirror coatings in use in gravitational wave detectors. At present, gravitational wave detectors are limited in sensitivity due to the thermal noise in mirror coatings. Kirsty’s research involves fabricating new high refractive index and low mechanical loss materials that are needed for improving the mirror coatings and which, more broadly, have applications in optomechanics and quantum information.

The team, which also includes investigators Joerg Rottler and Ke Zou, as well as Mitacs Postdoctoral Fellow Matthew Mitchell, have combined their expertise in modelling, thin-film deposition, and characterization to enable a cycle of simulation, fabrication, and measurement of candidate thin-film materials to improve the coatings.

Since joining Blusson QMI, Kirsty has demonstrated leadership in research and development, but also in outreach and student training activities. As part of Science World’s Future Science Leaders Program in 2023, Kirsty delivered four hands-on sessions involving building tabletop interferometers – the technology behind gravitational wave detectors – to four different groups of students, transforming the complex science of our universe into an accessible activity while showing that life as a physicist is fun and inspiring.

Kirsty also enjoys providing training to Capstone students. Recently, students Alexi Garbuz, Bridget Meyboom, Dora Yang, and Ray Su worked with Kirsty on a project called High Throughput Testing of Coating Mechanical Loss for Advanced LIGO. The students developed several deliverables relevant to the LIGO project, contributing useful tools that will remain after they have moved on.

Kirsty earned a Master’s degree in Physics from the University of Sheffield in 2014 and her PhD from the University of Alberta in 2020. She began her position as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Blusson QMI in 2021. Blusson QMI is delighted to have Kirsty as the moderator for our upcoming panel discussion on nanofabrication – Unboxing Quantum 2024: Navigating the Nanoscale for Novel Applications.