RAINER WEISS, Professor of Physics Emeritus; 2017 Nobel Laureate

Professor of Physics, Emeritus
2017 Nobel Laureate

EMAIL: weiss@ligo.mit.edu

PHONE: [Office] 617-253-3527 [LIGO Lab] 617-253-4824

OFFICE: [1] NW22-281 [2] NW17-161

ASSISTANT: Marie Woods (617) 253-4824


Areas of Physics:

Experimental Atomic Physics, Atomic Clocks, Laser Physics, Experimental Gravitation, Millimeter and Sub - millimeter Astronomy, Cosmic Background Measurements

Research Interests

Writing this at 73 and having shed the august responsibilities of a full fledged faculty, it is natural to be retrospective rather than to look at prospects.

Currently working on the LIGO project, a joint Caltech and MIT effort, to observe gravitational waves and use them to study gravitation and astrophysics. My role now is to be the equivalent of a grad student. Very much enjoy this. Over the years have worked on cosmological studies with Robert Dicke and David Wilkinson at Princeton. Began physics in atomic beams with John King and Jerrold Zacharias at MIT. If you are really interested, you can read the standard stuff here [PDF].

Major Projects

Atomic Clock development
Balloon program to measure Cosmic Background Radiation,
Science Working Group Chairman, COBE satellite program,
Laser Interferometer Gravitational - Wave Observatory (LIGO)

Biographical Sketch

RAINER WEISS (NAS) is a Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Previously Dr. Weiss served as an assistant physics professor at Tufts University and has been an adjunct professor at Louisiana State University since 2001. Dr. Weiss is known for his pioneering measurements of the spectrum of the cosmic microwave background radiation, his inventions of the monolithic silicon bolometer and the laser interferometer gravitational wave detector and his roles as a co-founder and an intellectual leader of both the COBE (microwave background) Project and the LIGO (gravitational-wave detection) Project. He has received numerous scientific and group achievement awards from NASA, an MIT excellence in teaching award, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the National Space Club Science Award, the Medaille de l’ADION Observatoire de Nice, the Gruber Cosmology Prize, and the Einstein Prize of the American Physical Society. Dr. Weiss is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society, The American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and he is a member of the American Astronomical Society, the New York Academy of Sciences, and Sigma Xi. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. in physics from MIT. Dr. Weiss is a member of the NAS and has served on nine NRC committees from 1986 to 2007 including the Committee on NASA Astrophysics Performance Assessment; the Panel on Particle, Nuclear, and Gravitational-wave Astrophysics; and the Task Group on Space Astronomy and Astrophysics.


  • 1955 - SB, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 1962 - PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Major Positions

  • 1960-1961: Instructor of Physics, Tufts University
  • 1961-1962: Assistant Professor of Physics, Tufts University
  • 1962-1964: Research Associate in Physics, Princeton University
  • 1964-1967: Assistant Professor of Physics, MIT
  • 1967-1973: Associate Professor of Physics, MIT
  • 1973-2001: Professor of Physics, MIT
  • 2001-present: Professor of Physics Emeritus, MIT

Selected Awards and Honors

  • 1968: MIT Baker Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • 1983: NASA Achievement Award (Monolithic Bolometers)
  • 1990: NASA/GSFC Group Achievement Award (COBE)
  • 1991: NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal (COBE)
  • 1991: NASA Group Achievement Medal (COBE)
  • 1994: National Space Club Science Award (COBE)
  • 1998: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Fellow
  • 2000: John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship
  • 2000: National Academy of Sciences, Member
  • 2003 Medaille de l'ADION Observatoire de Nice
  • 2006: Gruber Prize in Cosmology (as part of COBE team)
  • 2007: American Physical Society Einstein Prize
  • 2016: Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics (LIGO)
  • 2016: Gruber Prize in Cosmology (LIGO)
  • 2016: Shaw Prize in Astronomy (LIGO)
  • 2016: Kavli Prize in Astrophysics (LIGO)
  • 2016: Harvey Prize in Science and Technology (LIGO)
  • 2017: Willis E. Lamb Award for Laser Science and Quantum Optics (LIGO)
  • 2017: Princess of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research (LIGO)
  • 2017: Nobel Prize in Physics (LIGO)

Selected News Articles

Selected Publications

  • “Detector Description and Performance for the First Coincidence Observations between LIGO and GEO,” The LIGO Scientific Collaboration, Nucl. Instrum. Methods A, 517, 154-179 (2004).
  • “Analysis of LIGO data for gravitational waves from binary neutron stars,” LIGO Scientific Collaboration, Phys Rev D 69, 122001 (2004).
  • “Setting upper limits on the strength of periodic gravitational waves using the first science data from the GEO600 and LIGO detectors,” LIGO Scientific Collaboration, Phys Rev D 69, 082004 (2004).
  • “Analysis of First LIGO Science data for stochastic gravitational waves,” LIGO Scientific Collaboration, Accepted by Phys Rev D (2004).
  • “First upper limits from LIGO on gravitational wave bursts,” LIGO Scientific Collaboration, Phys Rev D 69, 102001 (2004).
  • Complete publication list [PDF].

Last updated on July 15, 2020 4:41 PM