Chris Van Den Broeck (1974) obtained his PhD in theoretical physics at the Pennsylvania State University (USA). After a postdoc at Cardiff University (UK) he joined the staff at Nikhef, the National Institute for Subatomic Physics in Amsterdam. As a member of the Virgo Collaboration, he was the initiator of the data analysis effort to use gravitational wave signals from merging binary neutron stars and black holes to test the strong-field dynamics of general relativity for the first time, and pioneered the analysis tools necessary to probe the internal structure of neutron stars with gravitational waves. During 2014-2016 he led, together with a counterpart in the US, the joint LIGO-Virgo analyses of the first gravitational wave detections. Since 2017 he is Professor by Special Appointment in Theoretical Particle Physics and Cosmology at the University of Groningen.
In his presentation “Gravity’s messengers: The direct detection of gravitational waves and what comes next”, Van Den Broeck will discuss the implications of the recent discoveries made with the LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave detectors in terms of astrophysics, fundamental physics, and cosmology. In the next few years, the elusive neutron star equation of state will be measured; the celebrated black hole no-hair conjecture will be tested empirically; and an entirely new way of mapping the Universe will open up. Plans are being made for LISA, a future space-based gravitational wave detector, as well as a large underground facility called Einstein Telescope, which may be placed in the Netherlands. Together these will cover the entire visible Universe in a wide range of frequencies, with the possibility of finding the gravitational wave signature of the Big Bang itself.