Heliophysics school celebrates 10th anniversary

NASA-UCAR program strengthens relatively new field

October 6, 2016 | For the past decade, hundreds of students from all over the world have come to Boulder for a week each summer to learn about connections between the Sun and Earth, including the physics of space weather.

Called the Heliophysics Summer School, the program is funded by NASA and managed by UCAR Cooperative Programs for the Advancement of Earth System Science (CPAESS).

Experts help graduate students and postdocs explore the basic science of heliophysics through interactive seminars and hands-on working groups. The workshops produce textbooks to support the teaching of heliophysics at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Each summer school is capped by student research presentations.

Heliophysics Summer Deans

Heliophysics Summer School faculty and current and former deans (left to right): Nicholas Gross; Jan Sojka; George Siscoe; Karel Schrijver; Fran Bagenal; Dana Longcope; Madhulika Guhathakurta (NASA/Living With a Star sponsor); Amitava Bhattacharjie; and Meg Austin, UCAR CPAESS senior advisor. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)

"The Heliophysics Summer School has been instrumental in helping connect and train young scientists in what is a relatively new field," said Meg Austin, CPAESS senior advisor.

Former summer school deans and instructors helped mark the 10th anniversary this year, which focused on "Explosive Energy Conversions and Particle Acceleration." The school drew 32 participants, from the U.S. and overseas, including Ethiopia, Finland, and India.

Ten years on, program participants found it as relevant as ever.

Shortly after discussing his solar storm research, Hadi Madanian, a Ph.D. candidate and research assistant at the University of Kansas, could be seen in deep discussion with instructor Vladimir Airapetian (Sigma Space Corp. and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center). Madanian said the discussions with instructors were the most valuable aspect of the program. "It also was very important to learn the different tools others are using that I wasn't aware were available," he said.

Heliophysics examines the connections between the Sun and Earth as one dynamic system, intricately connected by light, heat, magnetism, and so on.

Heliophysics Summer School students

Heliophysics Summer School students (left to right): Christine Verbeke, Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium; Abigail Azari, University of Michigan; Jennifer Verniero, University of Iowa; and instructor Neel Savani-Patel from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)

Christine Verbeke, a Ph.D. candidate at Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, is trying to simulate the effects of coronal mass ejections on Earth. She said the summer school itself offered connections.

"The value to me was to see the connections between all the different disciplines within heliophysics, and also to meet the people from the other disciplines," she said.

Many summer school students go on to win UCAR's Jack Eddy postdoctoral fellowships to study solar physics.

Jeff Smith, Science Writer and Public Information Officer