Friday, May 25, 2012

News on LISA and Some Personal Stuff


The LISA Symposium was in Paris this week and the result of this meeting was a strengthening of the efforts to put a gravitational-wave detector into space and the formation of the eLISA Consortium.  Below is a statement issued by the Consortium:

Getting ready for next time:
European gravitational wave community strengthens its space collaboration
During the 9th international LISA Symposium, held May 21 – 25 in Paris, the international LISA* community analyzed the new situation after ESA´s decision to choose JUICE for Europe´s next large space science mission. As the eLISA** mission, despite not being selected, was reported to have been unanimously ranked first by ESA´s scientific review committee in terms of scientific interest, strategic value for science and strategic value for the projects in Europe, the community is in good spirits: this is the first time that any space agency committee has ranked a gravitational wave observatory as its highest scientific priority. In order to prepare a strongest possible bid for the next launch opportunity the community has decided to continue its collaboration as the self-funded and independent eLISA consortium.
Besides preparing for the next competition the consortium will strongly support ESA's LISA Pathfinder mission, whose launch in 2014 will finally open the door to approval of a full gravitational wave mission. LPF will demonstrate key gravity-measuring technologies in space for the first time, preparing the way not only for gravitational wave detectors but also for next-generation Earth and planetary gravimetry.
The eLISA consortium consists of a management board, a steering committee, and working groups in science, technology and data analysis. It represents the European states involved in eLISA, i.e. Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and UK. The consortium is led by Prof. Dr. Karsten Danzmann, who chaired the former LISA International Science Team and is a director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI) and a professor at the Leibniz Universit├Ąt in Hannover, Germany.
“Our goal is to keep this highly motivated and effective scientific community together. It has attracted many young and excellent researchers. The knowledge and innovative potential of our community is documented in more than 2000 published scientific papers - we want to keep it working on a strong science, technology and data analysis programme”, says Karsten Danzmann, describing the role of the eLISA consortium.
Colleagues from the US, China and possibly other interested countries will be invited to participate. At the LISA Symposium, US participants presented results on a comparative study of low-cost LISA variants and expressed interest in contributing to an ESA-led mission. And for the first time, a large Chinese delegation participated in the LISA Symposium and announced their scientific interest in a close collaboration on a gravitational wave mission. The Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Space Agency are developing their own plans for a gravitational wave detector in space.  
LISA*: Laser Interferometer Space Antenna
eLISA**: evolved Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, also known as NGO (New Gravitational-Wave Observatory)


It's been a long while since I posted on here about myself.  One of the reasons I started this blog was that I wanted to humanize scientists and the work they do; you wouldn't believe how often visitors tell me that I'm not what they expected from a scientist (they mean that as a compliment) or that I was more normal than they expected.  I pulled back on writing much about myself simply because I wasn't nearly as interesting as I first thought.  I can be summed up pretty well by: loves vampires, has migraines, and is sometimes insecure about her professional worth.  (This post is even being published a day late because a migraine.)

But there has been some excitement in my life.  Over the last two weeks I have been catching up on all of my routine doctors appointments I have been putting off due to my work schedule and my husband's (and we share a car since we work at the same place).  He was out of town for nearly 2 weeks so I had the car to myself!  I've seen by dermatologist (I am very fair skinned and I get checked out for skin cancer), my gynecologist, my dentist, my cardiologist, and my urologist.  The good news is that everything is going well even though I was up to 6 months behind on being seen.  The bad news is that I've let my depression get the better of me these past few months and I didn't realize what a bad place I was in until I had time to myself.

I've been wondering whether or not to talk about this on my blog since I have had some outright ignorant reactions when I mention that I have depression.  But, May is Mental Health Month and I would like to talk a little about dealing with depression and anxiety and why you should seek treatment if you suffer from this as well.

I was an anxious little kid who was sad a lot.  As I grew up and started to have more adult problems, these tendencies became more pronounced.  It took a traumatic event for a doctor to recommend treatment for depression.  This treatment took some time to work, but when it did I realized that I had basically lived my whole life depressed to some extent and simply thought that was what normal was.  I don't need constant treatment for it, but if I'm not careful depression can sneak up on me so slowly that I don't notice it happening until it becomes horrible.  That is what happened for me recently and even then it took a doctor to bring the point up (I guess I'm not as good at covering it up as I thought I was).  I'm being treated again and things are starting to look brighter.  At least I don't feel alone and isolated even when I am surrounded by friends and colleagues.

My point is, if you think you are depressed or feel anxious for extended periods of time, talk to a doctor, medical or psychological.  I've been told to just "get over it" or called weak because I have sought treatment for my depression.  Well, will power can only help you look like nothing is wrong but you will still be depressed.  And I have discovered that most of the people who call me weak have similar problems of their own that they won't seek help for.  Truly, treating my depression is the best thing that I have ever done and I am not sure if I would be where I am today if I had not.