Dr. Chad Hanna’s Message Box

Chad Hanna is an Assistant Professor of Physics at Penn State University who was preparing for his fourth-year review at the university. His audience included faculty in his department and associated departments, as well as university administrators. Therefore, his audience varied in its technical knowledge of astrophysics.

Chad wanted the significance of his research to be apparent to all members of the review board, who will be considering him for promotion and tenure. He used his Message Box to help craft his narrative write-up to submit to the board for its evaluation of his contributions to the field of astrophysics.

Read Transcribed Message Box Here

Dr. Chad Hanna’s Message Box


Audience: University faculty and administrators

Issue: Advance our understanding of the universe through gravitational wave astronomy


  • Many astrophysical phenomena such as supernova and gamma ray bursts are likely to emit gravitational waves in addition to electromagnetic and particle emission.
  • Detecting gravitational waves simultaneously with electromagnetic and particle emission would let us confirm many modern astrophysics theories.
  • Although it may be possible to correlate gravitational waves and electromagnetic waves, it will be challenging because it will be rare that both show up strongly at the same time.


  • Gravitational wave astronomy has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the universe as much as modern electromagnetic astronomy has since the time of Galileo.
  • An aggressive observation program will let us know what drives the most energetic events in the universe. The more we know about such events the more we are able to infer about how stars are born, how they live, and how they ultimately die.


  • An aggressive observation campaign to maximize the changes of observing electromagnetic events that coincide with gravitational waves.
  • Identify the source of gravitational waves the instant they arrive at earth in order to catch the associated electromagnetic counterparts that may fade quickly and to notify astronomers to follow up gravitational wave signals.
  • Decrease the delay between detecting and locating gravitational waves from 1 minute to 1 second to catch electromagnetic emissions that might fade quickly, and otherwise be overlooked.

So What?

  • Gravitational waves arise from one of the most profound theories of modern physics – the idea that space and time are dynamically changing, first proposed by Einstein over 100 years ago but only recently proven.
  • Gravitational waves are in many ways analogous to sound. With gravitational wave observations, our universe finally has a soundtrack!
  • Gravitational waves will provide new insight into the universe’s most extreme events such as the collision of two black holes and may eventually enable us to “listen” all the way back to the beginning of the universe which is not possible with any other observation tools.