The Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy was created by a grant from the University Research Centers program administered by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 2003.

In 2007 it was also selected for funding under the Center for Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) from the National Science Foundation.

The center currently possesses a varied portfolio of extra-institutional funding from various sources, including NASA, NSF, and DoD which totals more than $3 million per year.

The core mission of CGWA is to further scientific research and education in gravitational wave astronomy.

One of the most exciting new developments in physics is the imminent advent of gravitational wave astronomy - viewing the cosmos not with light and its electromagnetic complements like radio, x-rays, infrared, microwaves and gamma-rays, but rather with ripples of gravity, or gravitational waves. Viewed in this way, the universe will reveal details that cannot be observed by any other means, and many of its most enigmatic constituents, such as black holes, will be among the most visible objects in the sky.

To reap the full benefit of the scientific promise that gravitational wave astronomy embodies requires interaction from scientists across disciplines: astrophysicists, source modelers, data analysts and experimentalists. Data analysts rely on source modelers and astrophysicists to predict features of gravitational wave signals that will allow them to be extracted from instrumental noise. Source modelers rely on astrophysicists and data analysts to guide them in modeling the sources that are most likely to be observed. Astrophysicists use source modeling and signals extracted by data analysts to refine their astrophysical theories. Experimentalists are uniquely positioned to interact with data analysts to convey the intricacies and complexities of highly sophisticated detectors, an instrumental characterization, which is essential to be able to detect signals that are extremely weak and come from very far away.

A new window onto the universe will be opened when gravitational waves, after first detection, become a standard tool for observing the dynamics of strong gravitational fields: binary compact objects, collision of black-holes, neutron stars, supernovae explosions, even the murmurs from the very first instants of time when our universe came into being after a huge explosion; the knowledge obtained from studying all these phenomena will pose new questions and new challenges in our never ending quest to understand the universe.

CGWA scientists and students are active members of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC). LSC is a highly energetic group of 800 scientists worldwide collectively working with the LIGO observatories located in the USA and also with the VIRGO observatory, managed by a French and Italian consortium and located in Italy. They also work in different experimental and theoretical aspects of the mission planned by NASA and ESA (the European Space Agency) to put a gravitational wave antenna in space, the so-called LISA mission.

CGWA and Education

The CGWA is highly committed to education. CGWA professors play a fundamental role in the undergraduate and graduate programs at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. But at even a more fundamental level the CGWA is committed to enhance scientific literacy and science education in general.

During the summer of 2005, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine undertook a study of America's evolving competitiveness in the global economy. The study resulted in a 500-page volume that became known as the "Gathering Storm" report. It focused upon the ability of Americans to compete for employment in a job market that increasingly knows no geographic boundaries. A recent update to this report "Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5".

It is precisely to enhance the competitiveness of our region, our state and our country that the center supports the creation and development of innovative programs in education and outreach that create awareness about scientific and engineering careers among youngsters, that informs and prepares high school students for careers in science, and that prepares the future generations of scientists and engineers to be the innovators and creators that our society needs.

CGWA and the Community

There is a clear and demonstrable correlation between economic progress, industrialization and the development of a technologically competitive workforce. The existence of comprehensive universities capable of laying out technological and scientific foundations is a necessary condition to foster economic development in a region. Science and technology programs play a crucial role by developing competitive high-tech industries and producing graduates ready to enter them.

The region that The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley serves is among the poorest in the nation by almost any possible indicator (unemployment, literacy, education, income). Our center is convinced that it can play a crucial role in helping transform the economic and social nature of our region. It is committed to do so by improving the rates at which U.S. citizens of Hispanic descent are awarded advanced degrees in basic science at the master and the Ph.D. level at the local, state and national levels, by increasing the number of Hispanic undergraduates in the areas of physical sciences, computer science and engineering and by augmenting the general scientific literacy of the lower Rio Grande region, thus providing a fertile environment for an increased high-tech component for border industries.