Professor Harlan E. Spence leads a research group that studies the physics of cosmic plasmas, from the Sun’s corona to interplanetary space to Earth’s upper atmosphere, using experimental and modeling techniques. Several fundamental themes unify Spence’s research projects: energy conversion processes, including magnetic reconnection; plasma turbulence and structuring, and their roles in various plasma environments; charged particle acceleration, transport, and losses, both in explosive solar phenomena and at interplanetary shocks as well as in Earth’s radiation belts; and solar cosmic ray production and galactic cosmic ray modulation. As co-Director for Validation and Metrics of BU’s Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling, Spence and his research team develop and use physicsbased, numerical models to understand the powerful dynamics of interacting solar and planetary plasmas (“space weather”) and the resultant deleterious effects on space technologies and astronauts. Professor Spence complements these modeling efforts with the development of instruments on NASA spacecraft and the analysis of the new observations needed to fuel understanding. He is co-Investigator on two energetic particle instrument packages in orbit on the POLAR satellite since 1996 and co-Investigator on a suite of particle instruments on the upcoming Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission. He is Principal Investigator on a cosmic ray sensor that will launch on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in late 2008, and is Principal Investigator on a recently selected instrument suite that will provide the key measurements for the 21 NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission. Spence serves on several national committees that advise NASA and NSF on future space missions and research programs.
Research Interests: Theoretical and experimental space plasma physics; cosmic rays and radiation belt processes; heliospheric, planetary magnetospheric, lunar, and auroral physics.
Education: BA, Boston University
MS, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles
Curriculum Vitae (pdf)