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WVU Space Plasma Physics Job Opening

The West Virginia University Department of Physics and Astronomy is seeking applications for a Assistant or Associate Professor faculty position in Space Plasma Physics with a specialization in experiment and/or instrumentation.

The advertisement for the position is available at this link.

Submit an application for the position at this link.

The email address to send letters of recommendation is plasmasearch@mail.wvu.edu.

This webpage serves to provide you with additional information about the position, the department, and some local flavor. Whether you have previously been to Morgantown before or not, we think you’ll find something to surprise you!

The Current WVU Space Plasma Physics Research Program

WVU has an accomplished and multifaceted geospace plasma science program, spanning colleges, departments, research approach (experiment, instrumentation, observation, theory, simulation), and focus (sun, solar wind, magnetosphere, and ionosphere).  Pertinent links about our faculty, research, students, and internal reports are listed below:

Plasma Physics page with list of Faculty and Research Areas
WVU Plasma and Space Physics Current Postdocs, Graduate Students, and Undergraduate Students
WVU Plasma and Space Physics Alumni
WVU Plasma and Space Physics Theses and Dissertations
WVU Plasma and Space Physics Internal Reports

WVU Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
WVU MAE's Piyush Mehta Website

Available Laboratory Facilities

The department is housed in White Hall (pictured below) which was opened in 1942. The building underwent complete renovation for the Department of Physics and Astronomy to move there in 2012. The building has over 25,000 square feet of laboratory space. There are clean rooms for growth of thin films and etching of complex materials, an internal chilled water system for equipment cooling, and all water and HVAC infrastructure is installed on vibration isolation mounts to reduce mechanical noise. Each laboratory space has external light control for spectroscopic experiments. The building includes a special extremely low vibration wing for sensitive microscopes. All laboratory spaces are outfitted with 400 Amps of 208 VAC power, clean electrical grounds, and exhaust systems for vacuum pumps.

White Hall

White Hall has a 750 square feet of laboratory space ready for immediate occupancy for a new hire (pictured below). In addition, a clean room bay is immediately available for building space flight instruments in a high cleanliness environment. An existing laboratory space is currently in use for fabrication of sub-orbital rocket payload instruments and CubeSat instruments. That laboratory includes a flight-certified soldering station for electronics assembly and test equipment for space flight instrumentation. WVU has successfully launched over a dozen instruments through the RockSat program and two instruments on the STF-1 CubeSat mission (launched in 2019).

Available Clean Room

Plasma Physics Courses at WVU

The plasma courses in the WVU Department of Physics and Astronomy are extensive. At the graduate level, four semester-long courses are cycled every two years, including a survey (781), kinetic theory (783), and magnetohydrodynamics (MHD, 784). The fourth was computational plasma (782) until recently. The undergraduate survey class (481) is taught sporadically, and lately has been only co-listed with 781. Starting in 2009, there was an undergraduate special topics course (493) in experimental space physics where students build payloads for suborbital rocket launches through the RockSat program; it has not been offered since 2015.

Recently, the curriculum was changed to better suit the needs of the students, which has vastly expanded in space sciences. Computational plasma physics is now incorporated into the MHD and kinetic theory courses. This allowed 782 to be switched out, and special topics courses on Plasma Diagnostics and Partially Ionized Plasmas were offered. In Fall 2018, a special topics course called Solar and Space Physics was offered. The first time it was offered, there were 20 students in the course.  Additional information about the plasma curriculum are at the link below.

WVU Plasma and Space Physics Curriculum

About Morgantown

Morgantown is centrally located and regularly makes “Best Place to Live” lists because of its good schools, excellent health care, low unemployment rate, low crime rate, and abundant recreational opportunities.

The Morgantown entry on "Top 100 Best Places to Live" list

WVU in Morgantown

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity (DEI)

The department and university energetically supports diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), as described below:

Departmental Achievements in Diversity

The WVU Department of Physics and Astronomy has been successful in hiring faculty members from underrepresented populations. The department faculty is 28% female and 31% underrepresented, which compare favorably to community-wide physics representation rates of 19% female and 26% underrepresented. Two female faculty members in the department have named professorships.

Departmental Activities in Equity and Inclusivity

The department carries out numerous activities to enhance equity and inclusivity in the department.  This includes a DEI Journal Club, a departmental climate survey, hosting Safe Zone training (~1/4 of the faculty has been trained), and many more activities.  These activities are summarized at the following website: 

The APS Bridge Program

The APS Bridge Program is “an effort to increase the number of physics PhDs awarded to underrepresented minority (URM) students, including African American, Hispanic American, and Native American students” (quoted from their website). Institutions aspiring to conform to best practices in admissions, mentoring and advising of URM, etc., may apply to be a Bridge Program. There are two levels for this – a “Member Institution” and a “Partnership Institution”.  A Member Institution is one that is “actively working to improve diversity in the physics community,” supports the Bridge Program mission, and commits to providing annual diversity data to APS. In March of 2019, the WVU Department of Physics and Astronomy was named a Member Institution. Partnership Institution status is for departments “that have demonstrated that they will provide a supportive, bridge-like treatment of students,” including active mentorship. The Department of Physics and Astronomy has submitted an application to become a Partnership Institution.

APS Bridge Program
APS Bridge Program Member Institutions

University Initiatives in DEI

WVU obtained a $3.8M NSF ADVANCE Institutional Transformation (IT) grant in 2010. The NSF ADVANCE program “seeks to develop systemic approaches to increase the participation and advancement of women in academic STEM careers.” The project ran with NSF support through 2018, when the WVU Office of the Provost began fully funding the WVU ADVANCE Center, an interdisciplinary research and practice unit for faculty equity. The center has an innovative direct engagement approach to institutional change that has yielded the following achievements: (1) The creation of an institutional culture of systematic data collection and sharing, and tracking institutional trends to inform organizational decision-making, (2) institutionalized policies and resources that support work-life integration, (3) transparent and inclusive recruitment and evaluation practices, (4) better mentoring of faculty, (5) leadership programs that promote and sustain diversity, (6) significant improvements in the hiring of female faculty in targeted STEM and social and behavioral science (SBS) units, (7) significant increases in the number and percentage of female faculty in STEM and SBS disciplines who have reached the rank of Professor, (8) the development of Dialogues, a replicable, cost effective, and efficient facilitation process promoting gender equity and diversity through collective engagement, increased inclusivity, team-building, productivity, and effectiveness for members of academic work units, and (9) an active social science research team generating new knowledge around each of the core initiatives. 

The WVU ADVANCE Center continues to expand initiatives promoting an inclusive, diverse, and equitable academic community, to grow institutions and faculty members involved in Dialogues, collaborate with other institutions on issues of broadening participation, and pilot and assess the impact of new initiatives, and engaging faculty members, groups, and leaders in ways that enhance organizational capacity.

WVU ADVANCE Center

History of the WVU Space Plasma Physics Research Program

WVU has a long history in geospace plasma sciences. The C layer of the ionosphere was discovered in 1936 by Robert Colwell, a long-time department chair of Physics at WVU [Colwell and Friend, 1936]. In 1966, WVU Physics professor Oleg Jefimenko wrote down equations for retarded electric and magnetic fields that are crucial to electromagnetic radiation theory [Jefimenko, 1966]; these are now called the “Jefimenko equations” or the “Feynman-Jefimenko equations” [e.g., Jackson, 1998].

Brief History of WVU and the Physics Department

Shortly after West Virginia became a state, the Agricultural College of West Virginia was founded in 1867 using the 1862 Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act [Pavlovic, 2011]. The following year, it was renamed WVU. What is now called the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences (ECAS) formed in 1895; what is now called the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources formed in 1887. The graduate school was established in 1930. The research output of WVU has steadily increased; in 2016, WVU was named an R1 school in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, indicating the highest level of research activity, accomplished by only 115 institutions that year. WVU’s R1 status was reaffirmed in 2018, moving into the top 90.

Physics became a separate department in 1897, and its Ph.D. program began in 1958 [Wright, 2008]. In 2013, the department was renamed the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Mirroring the rise of the research profile of the institution, the department has steadily increased research activity since 1958. The department now hosts over 30 faculty, nine of which are fellows of major organizations, with research specialties in condensed matter, astronomy, plasma and space physics, physics education research, and biophysics. The Department’s US News and World Report ranking is 100, but the department reached 59th nationwide in federal research expenditures in 2018 according to the Higher Education Research and Development Survey compiled by NSF.

Did you know?

The Senator who created the National Science Foundation (NSF) was from West Virginia and attended WVU’s law school?

Hidden Figures, the true story of African American scientists making crucial contributions to NASA missions, has an interesting connection to WVU – Katherine Johnson helped break the color barrier as a student at WVU and Dorothy Vaughn went to elementary school at a building across from WVU.

Golden delicious apples were developed in West Virginia.

Questions?

Email Paul Cassak at Paul.Cassak@mail.wvu.edu or call at 304-293-5102.