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NJIT awarded NSF grant to open undergrad space weather research program

Press Release From: New Jersey Institute of Technology
Posted: Tuesday, November 2, 2021

With a new grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), NJIT’s internationally-recognized Institute for Space Weather Sciences (ISWS) will now host a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program site — offering unique summer research opportunities for students in the dynamic field of space weather science.

The new 10-week space weather research program is expected to enroll eight undergraduates annually throughout the summers of 2022-2024.  

ISWS, which combines the strengths of three major research centers — NJIT’s Center for Solar-Terrestrial Research (CSTR), Center for Computational Heliophysics and Center for Big Data — houses some of the world's most advanced solar-terrestrial observatories that will serve as the basis for the program’s student-research in everything from solar astronomy and terrestrial physics, to space weather sciences. 

“This is a unique REU program in New Jersey, opening up a new world of research experiences for our state’s students in the exciting field of solar-terrestrial and space weather sciences, where NJIT has been at the forefront for decades,” said Hyomin Kim, the program’s principal investigator and NJIT assistant professor of physics. “Not only do we expect this program to foster the development of the future workforce in this rich field of studies, but it specifically aims to promote participation by students from institutions with limited research infrastructure, and from traditionally underrepresented groups in STEM fields.”

Under the direction of Kim, and the program’s co-PI and NJIT Associate Professor of Physics Bin Chen, ISWS’s REU students will be matched with faculty-mentors to conduct research projects at the cutting-edge of solar astronomy, terrestrial physics and space weather science, while honing relevant skills in data analysis, data visualization, computer programming and theoretical understanding, among others. 

Recently, NJIT-CSTR researchers have continued to advance work in the international space weather science community, leading a number of new discoveries that are unraveling the mysteries of solar flares and their potential to upend communication technologies on Earth — including uncovering new details about the “central engines” that power them to the microphysics involved in triggering their release.

Accepted students will get hands-on work with resources available at CSTR-operated observatories which are helping drive such research — including Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO), a world-class solar observatory that is home to the 1.6-m Goode Solar Telescope and NSF’s Synoptic Optical Long-term Investigations of the Sun (SOLIS). Students will also work alongside NJIT faculty involved in research from the Expanded Owens Valley Solar Array (EOVSA), the Automated Geophysical Observatories (AGOs) and other geophysical instruments in various locations around the world including Greenland, Canada, Peru and Antarctica.

Research funding at NJIT’s CSTR exceeded $4M this past year, most recently including an NSF award to develop a polarimeter for solar synoptic high-sensitivity observations with California State University, Northridge. Additional NSF funding has come to support the operation of EOVSA as a community facility and to support the next-generation, autonomous geophysical observatories in Antarctica.

ISWS’s REU program will be closely aligned with NJIT’s Provost Undergraduate Summer Research Program and the Undergraduate Research and Innovation (URI) initiative, overseen by Senior Vice Provost for Research Atam Dhawan, which currently hosts over 50 students each summer.

Along with their training during the on-campus program, students will receive dormitory accommodations on campus, a stipend of $6,000, as well as financial support for daily meals and travel. 

To learn more, visit sites.google.com/njit.edu/iswsreu/.

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