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NSF CAREER Award supports work in the study of electromagnetic waves

Congratulations to Dr. Mark Golkowski, recipient of a 2013 National Science Foundation CAREER Award.

Dr. Golkowski’s CAREER award project, “Whistler Mode Wave Propagation, Amplification and Coupling,” is a five-year investigation of electromagnetic wave propagation in the near-Earth-space environment. The research involves ground-based observations of low frequency waves in Alaska, special laboratory experiments performed at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., and theoretical simulations performed at the University of Colorado Denver.

The space environment enveloping the Earth (the near-Earth-space environment) hosts a rich array of physical processes as well as billions of dollars of spacecraft assets. Dr. Golkowski sees the scientific discoveries of the CAREER project as significantly enhancing current understanding of magnetospheric physics, including the large-scale energy dynamics known as space weather. Space weather effects are a leading limitation to spacecraft lifetime and thus a significant economic burden. Furthermore, with the prevalence of interconnected electronics, ground-based electrical and communication systems are more vulnerable to detrimental space weather events than ever before.

Through his CAREER program, Dr. Golkowski will provide a diverse audience exposure to advanced research and use novel numerical tools to improve engineering and mathematics instruction. He was motivated by two well-documented deterrents to science and engineering career paths: 1) insufficient mathematical proficiency, and 2) a perceived lack of instruction in applicable “real-world” skills in college level curricula. Unfortunately, these impediments tend to be most prevalent for underrepresented minorities.

From his teaching experience, Dr. Golkowski also knows that electromagnetic waves are a prime example of key engineering and science material that is notoriously intimidating to potential students. His CAREER project seeks to address these issues by leveraging the current popularity of mobile smartphones among students and youth. Dr. Golkowski and his research assistants will work with CU Denver senior design instructors to develop a special smartphone application that allows students to make recordings of electromagnetic waves and also visualize key aspects of electromagnetic phenomena. This application will allow students to improve their understanding of math and science and to record and examine the low-frequency waves that are the primary topic of Dr. Golkowski’s research. Through this application, the project will provide a much-needed bridge between a dominant mobile culture and the underrepresented education and career paths necessary to create and sustain it.

It is Dr. Golkowski’s vision that through the new smartphone tools and outreach efforts, cutting-edge space science research will be made accessible to all thus enhancing scientific and technological understanding.

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. Such activities are expected to build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research. (


Mark Golkowski obtained his BS degree from Cornell University and his MS and PhD degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford University. The topic of his PhD work was electromagnetic interactions in the near-Earth space environment and involved experimental work with the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) facility in Alaska. Specifically, Dr. Golkowski investigated how very low frequency waves are nonlinearly amplified after interaction with space plasmas. Dr.Golkowski’s decision to join the faculty of the University of Colorado Denver in 2010 was motivated by the unique opportunity to not only continue his investigations in space physics but to also engage in active research in the biomedical field by taking advantage of the consolidated institution of CU Denver and the the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. Dr. Golkowski currently performs research in ionospheric and magnetospheric physics, plasma discharges for biomedical applications, and interactions of electromagnetic fields and matter. Dr. Golkowski is co-author of the textbook Principles of Plasma Physics for Engineers and Scientists (Cambridge University Press 2011), and is associate editor of the international journal “Earth, Moon and Planets.”

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