Physics graduate aims for the moon and pursues a career in the space industry


After Alex Gruson graduates with a master’s degree in physics from Cal State Fullerton next week, she is launching her career in the space industry.

“I knew I wanted to get into the space industry after my graduate program, and with a background in physics, having real applications in research is important for the transition,” Gruson said.

Gruson’s passion for physics and astronomy, combined with pioneering work in CSUF’s gravitational wave research, helped her land a position at The Aerospace Corporation, a national nonprofit based in El Segundo which operates a federally funded research and development center.

“I recently went through the interview process for post-graduation positions and was lucky enough to have several offers to choose from,” said Gruson, who joined the company in June as a modeling and simulation of remote sensing systems.

“Future employers were aware of my work. It is clear that my research experience at CSUF has prepared me and helped me to land a job.

For the past two years, Gruson has been a graduate research student at the Nicholas and Lee Begovich Center for Gravitational-Wave Physics and Astronomy (GWPAC). She works in the lab of Joshua Smith, Professor of Physics and Dan Black, Director of Gravitational Wave Physics and Astronomy.

Alexandra Grisson
Alex Gruson received the award for the best master’s candidate in physics 2022.

A graduate with a 4.0 GPA, she is also a recipient of the 2022 Physics Outstanding Master Candidate Award from the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

His research focuses on the study of materials for the highly reflective mirrors used in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which detects gravitational waves from collisions of dense astronomical objects, such as black holes and neutron stars.

Specifically, Gruson studied silicon materials at cryogenic temperatures of around -240 degrees Fahrenheit. Under these conditions, silicon exhibits promising optical and mechanical properties, making it one of many new technologies being investigated for upgrades to the LIGO observatory and cosmic explorerthe next generation of detectors in the United States, she explained.

“Next-generation gravitational-wave observatories are being developed that will peer deeply into the dark side of the universe, observing the remnants of early stars, performing a star census through cosmic time, measuring the space-time with unprecedented precision and opening up a wide openness of discovery to the novel and the unknown,” said Smith.

Rendering of the cosmic explorer
Artist’s impression of Cosmic Explorer. Credit: Edward Anaya, 2022 Art Graduate and Virginia Kitchen Art Major.

Gravitational wave research allows scientists to observe the universe in a way that was not possible before 2015. The first discovery of gravitational waves was announced by LIGO in 2016, with physicists from CSUF – including Smith, Jocelyn Read and Geoffrey Lovelace, and their research students — instrumental in groundbreaking detection.

“This latest research is important because the next LIGO update hopes to increase the number of gravitational wave detections from one detection every few months to around one detection per hour, and this will also significantly expand the range of detections,” Gruson said. . “The information gained from gravitational wave detections can provide endless opportunities to learn more about the universe.”

CSUF physicists are part of the international team developing Cosmic Explorer, which includes identifying possible sites in the United States for observatories. physicists co-authored the Cosmic Explorer Horizon study, which considers the science, technology, partnerships, timing and cost of the project, Smith explained.

“This study describes a next-generation ground-based gravitational-wave observatory, with 10 times the sensitivity of Advanced LIGO,” Smith said. “Cosmic Explorer will push gravitational wave astronomy to the edge of the observable universe.”

The CSUF team is working to move Cosmic Explorer from the development phase to the design phase. Smith is director of instruments and observatories; Read, an associate professor of physics, is the organizer of the Cosmic Explorer Consortium; and Lovelace, professor of physics, is the main computer scientist.

Gruson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in physics-astrophysics from UC Davis, chose CSUF for his master’s program because of GWPAC’s research opportunities.

“This research project allowed me to contribute to a very important large-scale project that supports my passion for astrophysics, while giving me the laboratory experience I was hoping for — and the new skills that will benefit me. in my next career steps. ”

GWPAC 2022 Graduates

Graduate students who obtain a master’s degree in physics and pursue careers in industry or higher degrees are:

Erick Engelby — MKS Newport (optical industry)
Alex Gruson – The Aerospace Company
Amy Gleckl — Applying for a job in the optical industry
Mike Rezac – Air Force Research
Mary Usufzy — Data Science Job Application
Derek White – Student at Chapman University, pursuing a PhD in Computer Science and Data Science

Graduate seniors earning a bachelor’s degree in physics and their plans after graduation include:
Marlo Morales – Washington State University, pursuing a Ph.D. in Physics
Noora Ghadiri – University of Illinois, pursuing a PhD in Physics
Marc Penuliar — Applying for a Data Science Position and Data Science CSUF Certificate Program
Daniel Martinez — CSUF Masters Program in Physics

State of California Fullerton beginning the celebrations will take place from May 23 to 26.


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