Date of Award

May 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Stefan Ballmer


Gravitational Waves, Instrumentation, Interferometry, LIGO, Optics

Subject Categories

Physical Sciences and Mathematics


The era of gravitational wave astronomy was ushered in by the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) collaboration with the detection of a binary black hole collision [2]. The event that shook the foundation of space-time allowed mankind to view the cosmos in a way that had never been done previously. Since then, another remarkable event was found by the LIGO and Virgo detectors where two neutron stars collided, sending both gravitational and electromagnetic waves to earth [3]. LIGO was built with the purpose of detecting the ripples in space-time caused by astrophysical events with the hopes of understanding the complexities hidden within the cosmos. In 2011, the primary stages of Advanced LIGO were installed and commissioned to start the first observing run (O1). During the writing of this thesis, the detectors had hardware replaced in order to mitigate noise from scattered light and new optics which reduced the losses from absorption. The upgrades were in preparation for the third observing run (O3) and the work presented here is primarily focused on experimental techniques for operating at higher power and mode matching Gaussian beams in the dual-recycled Michelson interferometer for the Advanced LIGO era and beyond. The first two chapters discuss the fundamentals of gravitational waves and the LIGO detector configurations. The third chapter introduces the reader to fundamentals in mode matching Gaussian laser beams. The fourth and fifth chapter summarizes the author's work at Syracuse University. The sixth chapter deals with work at the LIGO Hanford observatory with an emphasis on mode sensing and high-power operation.


Open Access