Andrews Receives National Science Foundation Grant

   Campus News | Posted on May 3, 2024

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded over $550,000 to a new collaborative project between Andrews University’s Department of Physics, Augsburg University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The project, titled “Propagation and Dissipation of Electromagnetic Ion Cyclotron Waves in the Magnetosphere and Ionosphere,” seeks to reveal some of the unknown behaviors of electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) waves that are located within the magnetic field and atmosphere of Earth. Eun-Hwa Kim, physics research professor at Andrews University, will be the lead researcher and principal investigator for the project.

Under the NSF’s classification of a Geospace Environment Modeling (GEM) project, the research aims to use various detailed simulations to answer questions about the compression and stretching of the Earth’s magnetic field due to EMIC waves. According to research published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “EMIC waves have been established as one of several types of radio and plasma waves that play critical roles in the energization and depletion of the radiation belts and ring current,” both of which protect the Earth’s atmosphere.

According to Kim, EMIC waves can be detected by satellites in the magnetosphere—the Earth’s magnetic environment—but only for very brief moments, making it incredibly difficult to study them. For this reason, studies on EMIC waves are relatively new. The project’s abstract explains “there are many unsolved puzzles related to EMIC wave propagation,” thus identifying the research’s necessity and relevance to modern discussions and understandings of physics.

Kim states, “My observation team will research the frequency, polarization and where and when we detected these waves. The simulation team will launch the wave near the source where we believe [the waves may be] and then see how this wave propagates in different environments.” The various simulations will then be studied and further explored before Kim’s team publishes the findings.

The EMIC wave propagation project was first approved for funding in September 2022, but several complications delayed the start of the research until this year. A four-year plan, ending in March 2028, has been developed, beginning with preliminary research and leading to simulations needed for further data collection. Kim expects that the first research paper for the project will be submitted by the end of this year, with more to follow as the project advances.

Jay Johnson, professor of physics and engineering at Andrews University, will be working with Kim to set up the Andrews-based portion of the research. Mark J. Engebretson of Augsburg University and Hyomin Kim of the New Jersey Institute of Technology will be the co-researchers on this project. Kim and Johnson are also currently seeking an Andrews physics student to join the team as a research assistant. The student will assist the primary researchers and will ideally have a depth of knowledge in physics, a good GPA, and passion for research and knowledge.

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