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Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, Awarded National Science Foundation CAREER Grant


Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, an assistant professor of physics and electrical engineering at Scranton University, has won a highly competitive National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER grant. The $616,054 award will fund a 5-year initiative that integrates original ionospheric research into undergraduate course curricula and undergraduate and graduate research projects at the university. NSF CAREER grants are only available to early-career, tenure-track faculty members and must include tightly integrated research and education components. Frissell told ARRL the grant will offer significant support to develop the university’s newly formed ham radio club, W3USR, over the next few years.

“I am grateful to have this opportunity to advance the field of ionospheric physics, work with students and colleagues, and build up the amateur radio club, W3USR, at Scranton University,” said Frissell, who founded HamSCI, an international citizen science space physics research collective.

Frissell’s NSF CAREER proposal builds on his previously awarded $1.3 million NSF grant to develop modular, ground-based space science observation equipment and software for collecting and analyzing data from an international network of amateur radio users, including the ham radio club at Scranton.

“Space weather significantly impacts important modern technological systems, and the effective operation of such systems is dependent on the state of the ionosphere,” Frissell explained in the introduction to his grant proposal. “Understanding the connection between traveling ionospheric disturbances and atmospheric gravity wave sources in the lower atmospheric regions could improve the ability to predict the ionospheric state and thus its impact on navigation and communications systems.”

Through the NSF CAREER grant, Frissell will apply sophisticated, physics-based atmospheric/ionospheric models to extensive new data collected via the amateur radio network of Personal Space Weather Stations, which he helped to develop. The new funding supports two graduate engineering research assistants at Scranton University who will conduct data analysis and run models and code implementation using a new Linux-based analysis server that the NSF proposal will also fund.

In addition, Frissell will introduce physics and engineering students to space physics research and develop the skills needed to conduct this research through an introductory physics course for first-year students and, at a more sophisticated level, through an upper-level undergraduate “Introduction to Space Science and the Atmosphere” course he teaches, the university explained.

Frissell earned Master’s and Doctorate degrees in electrical and computer engineering from Virginia Tech, and a Bachelor’s degree in physics and music education from Montclair State University.