Two UAH scientists are playing a key role in funding NASA’s second phase of the Solar Physics Engine Center

Huntsville, Ala. (April 14, 2022) Two space scientists at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) who are directors of research at the DRIVE Heliophysics Center at Boston University (BU) where UAH is a partner had important roles in developing a proposal that resulted in a five-year, $15 million Phase II grant from the agency. NASA for this center.

Heliophysics is the study of how the sun influences and shapes the solar system.

Dr. Gary Zank, director of the Center for Space Plasma and Atmospheric Research (CSPAR) and Aerojet Rocketdyne Chair of the Department of Space Science (SPA) at UAH, part of the University of Alabama System, and Dr. Vladimir Florensky, associate professor of space science, are among the five research directors at the center, With UAH playing key research roles.

Dr. Zank leads small-ion physics research and Dr. Florensky is cosmic ray physics research leader.

“So I wrote a large section of the scholarship related to the physics of capture ions, and Dr. Florensky wrote about cosmic rays,” says Dr. Zank, who is the only full-time Alabama member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Known as SHIELD DRIVE – Solar Wind with Hydrogen Ion Exchange and Extensive Dynamics (SHIELD) Diversification, Realization, Integration, Project, Education (DRIVE), was one of only three such centers nationwide to receive Phase II funding from NASA.

According to NASA, the centers will support science that requires more than individual investigators or small teams. They bring synergistic and coordinated efforts to realize advanced innovative science that is ambitious and achievable.

Initially, NASA provided two years of Phase 1 funding for nine nationwide DRIVE missions that were selected to develop a proof of principle for how the final center would operate.

“I have also been very involved in developing the core structure of the center and establishing funding models for the various groups, using ideas and experiences that have come out of the current NSF Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Plasma gives me the lead here,” says Dr. Zank. “This experience has been very valuable, I think, in writing a compelling proposal.”

SHIELD DRIVE is home to more than 40 researchers from 17 universities, colleges, national laboratories, and research institutes. Dr. Merav Over, Professor of Astronomy at Boston University, is the principal investigator and leader of the center, whose administrative headquarters will be the Center for Space Physics.

“Merav and I have collaborated and have known each other for a long time. We have collaborated on research and already have several research papers together in the past two years as part of the first phase of the SHIELD program,” says Dr. Zank.

DRIVE centers are expected to cover a wide range of activities, says Dr. Zank.

“The idea behind DRIVE is not unlike the NSF Center, where the NASA DRIVE Centers are supposed to bring together a group of experts nationwide for a long time to address pressing problems in space physics while integrating diversity and education, bringing new young people into the field, and doing it all in an incredibly innovative way. reasonable “.

The funding for the second phase came about because of the excellent science that SHIELD has been doing and the general importance of the need to understand the large-scale interaction of the solar wind with the interstellar medium, says Dr. Zank.

“It is very likely that continuity has been strongly influenced by an innovative outreach and engagement program that has placed a strong emphasis on the diversity of our discipline, particularly among the younger members of our scientific community,” he says. Our team can work well together, which is critical for a well-functioning future center.”

UAH participates in part of the SHIELD Undergraduate Program, taking advantage of the Undergraduate Space Science Department’s NSF research experiences to integrate some of the SHIELD undergraduates.

“I think this is another example of the increasing importance that SPA and CSPAR are having. Along with Vladimir Florensky and I, new associate professor Dr. Lingling Zhao is part of SHIELD, as are several of the CSPAR researchers,” says Dr. Zank.

“We are a core component of the SHIELD Center for Research as well as components of diversity, integration, outreach and education,” he says. “It is very satisfying to see how SPA and CSPAR together and collectively grow in prestige and reputation, and SHIELD is another example.”

About the University of Alabama at Huntsville

Launched from America’s quest for space conquest, the University of Alabama in Huntsville is one of the first research-intensive PhD-granting American universities. Located in the second largest research park in the United States, UAH has strong capabilities in astrophysics, cybersecurity, data analytics, logistics and supply chain management, optical systems and engineering, reliability and failure analysis, helicopters and unmanned systems, severe weather, space propulsion and More. UAH prepares students for demanding positions in engineering, science, business, nursing, education, arts, humanities, and social sciences.

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