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Dr. Yu Lin from the Department of Physics Conducts Research with Team Receiving Record $115 Million Grant

Published: 07/30/2019

By: Maria Gebhardt

Dr. Yu Lin, an alumni professor in the Department of Physics in the College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM), is part of a team of researchers working on a record $115 million project awarded to the University of Iowa by NASA.

The grant will fund the creation and launch of two data-collecting satellites that will orbit a few hundred miles above. These satellites will be known as TRACERS standing for Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites.

The team of dozens of researchers will be studying how the solar wind and magnetic fields of the Earth interact through the fundamental plasma process called magnetic reconnection.

Dr. Lin is the theory lead on the project, and will be concentrating on the theoretical computation to work with the measurements. Her computer simulations will include the cusp, magnetosphere, and solar wind regions. 

“On a large, global scale, we are looking at the particle dynamics in the Earth’s northern magnetic cusp region and how they are are linked to the reconnection process,” she said. “We will be looking at the particle precipitation with solar wind conditions.”

She will be specifically looking at temporal or special variations in these magnetic areas.

“Once we see particular energy spectra of precipitating particles, we trace the particle trajectories back to where they originate and know whether they are caused by processes at different locations or same location but different times,” Dr. Lin shared.

One of Dr. Lin’s graduate students published a paper in 2012 on this very topic. The paper explored the magnetopause, the intersection of the magnetic field and solar wind. The satellite team for TRACERS contacted her to be part of this upcoming project.

“The satellite will take two to three years to build,” Dr. Lin explained. “I will be working to improve the model during this build time that will then in turn improve our physics investigation.”

Dr. Lin will also be working with Dr. Xueyi Wang, an associate research professor in the Department of Physics who will be the simulation code developer on this project, and a postdoctoral student. 

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