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Duru awarded NASA grant for Martian ionosphere study

Rod Pritchard, Secretary of the College
(319) 399-8605 or rpritcha@coe.edu

2016-09-16 07:02:54 - General

Firdevs Duru
Firdevs Duru
Assistant Professor of Physics

Coe College Assistant Professor of Physics Firdevs Duru has been awarded a $114,000 grant from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This grant will allow Duru and Coe physics students to conduct research on the ionosphere of Mars from now through September 2018.

Over the past 30 years, the Coe Physics Department has garnered more than $8 million in grants from the National Science Foundation and other organizations. However, this is the first time the department has received a research grant from NASA.

Duru earned her master's degree and Ph.D. at the University of Iowa. Her master's thesis - completed under the guidance of legendary space researcher Professor Donald Gurnett - was entitled "Magnetically Controlled Structures in the Ionosphere of Mars," and her Ph.D. is in experimental high-energy physics. Duru continues to be affiliated with the University of Iowa Space Plasma group as a research scientist, and she is involved with the NASA projects Mars Express, Cassini and MAVEN - the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission.

At Coe, Duru teaches astronomy, astrophysics and space plasma courses, which have provided new curricular options for Coe students. Her main research interest is the ionosphere around the planets, with a current focus on Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) data analysis, which consists of electron density profiles and the effects of the magnetic field on Martian ionosphere. She also conducts research on the plasma environment and upper atmosphere of Mars and Mars solar wind interaction, as well as comparative studies of data from radar sounders and space plasma instruments.

In essence, Duru will be heading a research group at Coe that will support the work of University of Iowa MARSIS personnel involved with validation and generation of MARSIS ionospheric data products for the European Planetary Science Archive (PSA) and the U.S. Planetary Data System (PDS). The NASA grant will allow Duru and up to five Coe physics students the opportunity to study the data related to the loss of the Martian atmosphere into space. The research will then be shared worldwide with the entire network of scientists, with the results published as appropriate. In addition, the funding will allow Duru and her students to travel to scientific conferences.

"I'm really excited to receive this grant," said Duru. "As I've just started teaching at Coe full time, this is a good opportunity for me as well as our students. It is really good to add these new research experiences for Coe students."

In fact, research done during 2015 on the effects of a strong coronal mass ejection and solar energetic particles on the Martian ionosphere by Duru and Coe physics students is currently under peer review awaiting publication.

"This is very important research in our growing Physics Department," noted B.D. Silliman Professor of Physics Steve Feller. "The curriculum changes and the NASA research grant adds new areas of study that otherwise wouldn't be present to those seeking to be physics majors. The students love it!"

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