JBU Professor Wins $75,000 National Science Foundation Grant

Siloam Springs, Ark. (August 17, 2009) — John Brown University Assistant Physics Professor Dr. Daniel Main has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for his upcoming study of the structure of the northern and southern lights (aurora borealis and aurora australis). The nearly $75,000 grant will be given to JBU to cover the costs for an undergraduate research assistant, travel, equipment, and other research expenses. Over the next three summers, Main and a JBU student assistant will seek to understand the fine scale structure of the aurora. The aurora is caused by high energy electrons colliding with air molecules at around 100 kilometers in altitude. By using a computer code which models the basic physics governing the behavior of the electrons, they hope to learn how the electrons are energized as they travel toward earth. Main has been involved in various levels of research of the electrons since 2002. The input parameters for the computer code were developed using observational data from the Fast Auroral SnapShoT spacecraft and research previously done by Main. “This is a great opportunity for me and for JBU students,” said Main. “I look forward to opening up an area of physics and engineering that would not be possible without this funding.” Main, who is in his second year teaching physics at JBU, is one of 15 in his field to receive a grant from the NSF this year. “This grant is a confirmation of our excellent programs that allow students to be involved in cutting edge research,” said Dr. Cal Piston, chair of Natural Sciences at JBU. The NSF is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 to promote the progress of science. They fund approximately 20 percent of all federally supported research that is conducted by American colleges and universities.