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Popular Science names SwRI space physicist one of "Brilliant 10" young scientists

San Antonio --September 12, 2006 -- Dr. Jerry Goldstein, a principal scientist in the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), has been named one of the "Brilliant 10" young scientists to watch. The group of 10 researchers is profiled in the October issue of Popular Science, on news stands today.

Goldstein, 35, is a space physicist specializing in the structure and dynamics of the Earth's plasmasphere. His research has revealed the broader, more far-reaching significance of events in this region, which produces some of the strongest space weather phenomena affecting life on Earth. For example, space storms strip away the outer layers of the plasmasphere, producing tremendous plumes of plasma that extend up to 60,000 kilometers into space. These plumes interfere with the transmission of signals from global positioning system (GPS) satellites, producing large (up to 80 meters) errors in GPS-based navigation. These errors affect a wide range of GPS users, including civilian and military aircraft, vessels at sea, automobiles and surveyors. Goldstein’s work in explaining, and ultimately predicting, the occurrence of plasma plumes promises to lead to future prediction and mitigation techniques for these GPS disruptions.

"Jerry's research has enabled rapid progress in a field that had been progressing only very slowly over the past 30 years," says Dr. Jim Burch, vice president of the SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division. "His studies on the Earth's plasmasphere, as well as the electric fields of the inner magnetosphere that control it, clearly establish him as the leading authority in this field."

Goldstein is the 2006 recipient of the Macelwane Medal, conferred by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in recognition of his plasmaspheric research. He is active in public outreach and education, serving as an adjoint assistant professor at The University of Texas at San Antonio. He is also increasingly called on by the media to comment on space weather phenomena and the impact of space radiation on commercial airline passengers.

SwRI researchers Dr. James D. Walker, an impact physicist, and Dr. Robin M. Canup, a space scientist, were also named to the "Brilliant 10" list in 2004.

Other researchers selected for Popular Science's 5th Annual Brilliant 10 list include:

  • Nima Arkani-Hamed, 34, Harvard University, for his work in theoretical physics.

  • Kelly Dorgan, 26, University of Maine, for her work in zoology.

  • Erich Jarvis, 41, Duke University, for his work in animal linguistics.

  • Sara Seager, 35, Carnegie Mellon University, for her work in astro-geology.

  • Melody Swartz, 37, Northwestern University and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, for her work in bioengineering.

  • Terry Tao, 31, University of California at Los Angeles, for his work in mathematics.

  • David Thompson, 36, Colorado State University, for his work in climatology.

  • Luis von Ahn, 27, Carnegie Mellon University, for his work in computer science.

  • Omar Yaghi, 41, University of California at Los Angeles, for his work in materials science.

Editors: Photos to accompany this story are available at

For more information contact Maria Stothoff at (210) 522-3305, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, PO Drawer 28510, San Antonio, TX 78228-0510.

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