UI wins its highest ever research award


A team led by physicist Craig Kletzing of the University of Iowa earned $ 115 million from NASA to study the mysterious and powerful interactions between the magnetic fields of the sun and Earth.

The contract award is the largest externally funded research project in the history of the UI. Of the more than 35,000 projects awarded to the IU since 1965, the Kletzing contract is the only research award of more than $ 100 million.

Craig Kletzing on the chalkboard. Photo of Tim Schoon.

"This is a career milestone for me personally," says Kletzing. "It's also a fantastic opportunity to make a really great science with a team of stars."

"This is a monumental achievement for the University of Iowa and in particular for the ambitious and experienced team of Craig Kletzing and the Department of Physics and Astronomy," says John Keller, Acting Vice President Research and Dean of Graduate College. "Not only is it the highest individual award award in the history of this institution, but the work will pay huge dividends in terms of a new understanding of the impact of the sun on space and on the planets. Just like the discovery of the radiation belts by James Van Allen, this project again shows the world why the University of Iowa is a global leader in space science and discovery. "

The Kletzing project, called Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites (TRACERS), is part of a larger initiative, the NASA Explorers Program, which studies how the sun affects space and the space environment around the planets.

The amount of the financing is subject to change as it does not include travel sharing costs.

NASA is interested in studying these magnetic interactions because of their effects on Earth. If it were not for the magnetic bubble around our planet, the hot, supersonic winds of the sun would inflict noxious doses of radiation that would affect life, if not all of life. The earth's magnetic field, with the help of the atmosphere, blocks most of the harmful energy from the sun.

The UI team includes:

Jasper Halekas, Lead ACE (electronic instrument)
George Hospodarsky, Lead MSC (magnetic search coil)
Scott BoundsInstrument Manager
Jeff DolanInstrumentation Systems Engineer
Dan Crawford, Center for Scientific Operations
Rich DvorskyMechanical Systems Engineer
Loren LeClair, TRACERS hiring lead (in the OVPR Sponsored Programs Division)

But the solar wind finds some ways to reach the Earth, through openings created when the magnetic fields of Earth and the Sun touch. When these holes are sustained, the solar wind penetrates regions called cusps.

Cusps can have a dramatic impact on a number of activities. In 2003, for example, twin events called Halloween Storms triggered auroras that could be seen as far south as Texas. Storms also interfered with GPS signals and radio communications, prompting the Federal Aviation Administration to issue its first warning to airlines to avoid excessive radiation flying at low altitudes.

"The TRACERS survey addresses long-standing questions about how energy couples the solar wind into our local magnetosphere," says Kletzing. "One of the long-term goals of our space research is to evolve into predictive models of & 39; space weather & # 39; to improve our ability to use space as a resource. The science that TRACERS studies will be essential to achieve this goal. "

Specifically, TRACERS will complement a current NASA mission, called MMS, in which four spacecraft are dipping around the earth's magnetosphere, scanning the magnetic apertures and observing them as they occur. The TRACERS spacecraft will study the Earth's closest magnetic effects.

"We're looking at what comes out of the lower end (of the aperture) whenever the magnetic reconnection happens," says Kletzing.

Previous UI Grants

  • US $ 88.5 million, François Abboud, 1971. The longest grant continuously funded under the same lead researcher, the research this grant funds focuses on the study of a wide range of diseases and illnesses, including anxiety, hypertension and vascular damage.
  • $ 75.4 million, Thomas Scholz, 1998. The grant funded the Child Health Specialties Clinics to improve the health, development and well-being of children and youth with special health care needs, especially in rural areas.
  • US $ 64.1 million, Jean Robillard, 1969. Researchers at the Center for General Clinical Research investigate areas of female health, prostate cancer therapy, bone loss in anorexia, cochlear implants, gene transfer in cystic fibrosis and homocysteine ​​and atherosclerosis, among others.
  • US $ 60.7 million, Bruce Gantz, 1985. Researchers at the Cochlear Implant Clinical Research Center in Iowa translate research on the auditory system into speech-enhancing technologies for deaf adults and children, as well as children who were born deaf.
  • $ 53.4 million, William Clarke, 2004. This grant supported Iowa's contribution to an international research consortium that studies the safety and efficacy of a treatment for patients with type 1 diabetes.
  • $ 52.1 million, Jane Paulsen, 2000. PREDICT-HD tracked 1,400 people at risk for Huntington's Disease over 12 years and investigated early brain and behavioral changes in healthy adults who have the genetic mutation for Huntington's disease and can develop the disease later.
  • US $ 48.9 million, George Weiner, 2002. The Mayo Clinic Lymphoma (SPORE) Specialist Program of Excellence in Research is a highly productive research collaboration focused on developing new approaches to the prevention, detection and treatment of lymphoma.
  • $ 48.3 million, George Weiner, 2000. This grant was awarded to the Holden Comprehensive Care Center, the only National Cancer Center designated by the National Cancer Institute in Iowa, and one of only 50 in the country.
  • $ 42.5 million, Peter Thorne, 1990. This award established and supports the UI's Environmental Science Research Center, which conducts research that connects the set of environmental pollutants in air, water, soil and food to human diseases and explores how to promote public health by avoiding such exposures.


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