photo-13I am the spokesperson and an assistant professor at GRAPPA (a center of excellence in gravitation and astroparticle physics) at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), the Netherlands. I am a joint faculty member at the Anton Pannekoek Institute (astronomy) and the Institute for High Energy Physics (IHEF) at UvA and a Nikhef member.

I am the working group lead for astrophysics of the EU Cost Action on “Gravitational Waves, Black Holes and Fundamental Physics.” I am a co-chair of the multi-messenger astrophysics group (with M. Bailes and M. Kasliwal) for the third-generation ground-based Gravitational Wave Observatory Network, of the multi-messenger multi-band work package (with J. Baker and Z. Haiman) for the ESA-led  LISA mission and of the Gravitational Wave working group (with A. Raccanelli) for the international SKA radio telescope. In addition, I am leading the extragalactic science working group within the Complementary Science Program for ESA’s PLATO mission — please contact me if you would like to get involved in any of the above!

Regarding observational facilities, I am a member of the Nikhef Virgo Gravitational Wave group, which works within the Virgo Collaboration together with the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, and the UvA representative for the BlackGEM telescope. I am also a member of the LSST transients, LOFAR-EM follow-up, MeerKAT Thunderkat, GROWTH, and JAGAWR collaborations and a NASA TAO and GUCI science team member.

Research Summary:
[apologies as out of date — website currently being updated!]

My current research focuses on the detection, measurement and interpretation of gravitational waves, the astrophysics of compact object (black holes, neutron stars and white dwarfs) binaries, and general relativity. In particular, over the past decade+, I have studied how black holes and neutron stars are formed, via the merger of pairs of neutron stars and black holes, using both their gravitational wave (GW) and electromagnetic radiation.


I am absolutely delighted to be part of the discovery of GW170817, a binary neutron star merger detected in both gravitational waves and electromagnetic waves. I was thrilled to be part of the small paper writing team for the discovery paper which was co-authored by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and Virgo Collaboration and 70 electromagnetic groups (> 3000 coauthors): “Multi-messenger Observations of a Binary Neutron Star Merger,” where I was responsible for coordinating and writing the X-ray, radio and UVOIR follow-up with our EM partners. In addition, I am a co-author of the several LIGO-Virgo Scientific Collaboration papers on the event and on the Science/Nature papers for the GROWTH collaboration and the discovery of the radio counterpart of GW170817.


[Credit: LIGO Labs] 


With this in mind, I am particularly excited about BlackGEM, the optical wide-field telescope array that will be located in Chile (La Silla): it will be dedicated to observing the light from compact object mergers as they form black holes! Radboud University is leading its development and its first light is aimed for early 2017.

After 100 years since Einstein first predicted the existence of gravitational waves and following more than 50 years of intense experimental and theoretical research, we observed in September 2015 for the first time a binary black hole merger via its gravitational radiation using the LIGO detectors — amazing ground-based gravitational wave detectors located in the US. At the end of 2016, the Virgo detector in Italy will also become operational!


Space music: Listen to some samples of merging black holes and neutron stars created by composer and friend Arthur Jeffes.


Email: samaya.nissanke ‘at’ uva.nl
Office:  C4.136, Science Park

Address: Science Park 904
Postbus 94485
1090 GL Amsterdam, NL
Phone: +31 20 525 8339