2017 Nobel Prize Winner Worked in Lab Designed by SMMA

Rainer Weiss Landing

SMMA is excited to announce that one of the 2017 Nobel Laureates in Physics is none other than Rainer Weiss, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and former SMMA client. In 1997 SMMA took on a laboratory relocation project for MIT and Weiss's Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) team. Their former location at MIT's Radiation Lab Bulding #23, now the Historic MIT Radiation Lab Plaque, was set to be demolished and re-designed by architect Frank Gehry, leaving Weiss and his team searching for new lab space.

Radiation Lab #23 was set inside of an old mill-style building dating as far back as World War II. With top secret radar research being conducted there at the time, the building was not efficient enough to meet the needs of the researchers. When it was decided that an artificial intelligence lab would go in its place, LIGO lab ended up relocating to Albany Street inside of the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center.

The SMMA team for the project, made up of Ara Krafian, Phil Poinelli, Parker Symmes, Mark O'Brien, Mike Powers, Paul Livernois, and Richard Croswell, consistently met with researchers in order to understand the needs of the lab, and properly fit out the space with the equipment necessary for gravitational-wave research.

"The biggest challenge in this project was vibration control, especially with there being a train spur on the opposite side of the building," explained Phil Poinelli, FAIA, ALEP, LEED AP, and MCPPA. "The trains that used to run through were freight trains serving East Cambridge, so it was important for us to create the kind of isolation necessary for a piece of equipment (such as the interferometer) that could be disturbed by outside vibration."


In 2016 Weiss was also awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, the Gruber Prize in Cosmology, the Shaw Prize in Astronomy, and the Kavli Prize in Astrophysics for his shared work with Ronald Drever and Kip S. Thorne, co-founders of LIGO.