Research Spotlight: Dr. DeJong

Jameson Horn presenting his work on Dr. Dejong’s research project.

Dr. Anna DeJong has recently received a three year NSF grant to pursue her research based on the role of the Earth’s ionosphere and its effect on the Earth’s magnetosphere, the Earth’s electric field, with a specific focus on the Aurora Borealis.

The magnetosphere and ionosphere are impacted by solar wind, a stream of charged particles coming towards the earth from the sun. The experiment looks at the conductance or how much the aurora allows through it and the makeup of the aurora as seen through satellite imagery directed towards the North Pole. The goal of the experiment is to research how or why the ionosphere changes and impacts the magnetosphere’s ability to maintain a steady state despite similar conditions each time. This is similar to dropping an identical mug multiple times from the same height and yet the mug does not break in the same way every time.

Dr. DeJong is currently working with two students, Jameson Horn, who is pursuing his master’s degree in Applied Physics and Computer Science and Samuel Porter, also pursuing his master’s degree in Applied Physics. I have interviewed both students and have asked them to share their thoughts and experiences. My hope is to inspire perspective students looking to explore research opportunities or perhaps persuade them to consider this topic of research for themselves.

Samuel Porter.

1. How did you decide to take part in student research? How did you begin working with Dr. DeJong?

“As a graduate student I decided to take the route of writing a thesis to complete the graduate program and earn a master’s degree. I felt that by doing research and writing a thesis I would be better prepared for future careers and what I will be required to do. I also liked the idea of doing new research and trying to answer questions that either had not yet been answered or were still unresolved and being able to contribute to new ideas.
When I set out to find a topic to research as well as an advisor, I went around and talked to various professors about what kind of research they were doing and what kind of opportunities they might have for me to participate. I decided to work with Dr. DeJong because the topic of her research was related to space which is something I find fascinating and I believed I would enjoy it the most.”

2. How would you describe your experience? What is your job on the research team or rather what do you spend your time doing?

“I started off by reading a lot of papers and books about space weather and Earth’s magnetosphere so that I would be able to better understand things that were related to what I would be researching. Now, I am writing codes to analyze data to look for connections between different things and drawing conclusions about the results and what they mean. I find it enjoyable to try and come up with new ideas and ways to look at data and to be able to see and understand the results of those ideas, especially when they provide good results.”

3. Do you have any advice or comments for others who may want to take part in student research?

“My advice to any students that want to take part in research is to simply talk to your professors and ask them about what type of research they’re doing and if there is any way you can help. The professors are more than happy to have the help and at the same time, help students grow in their knowledge and abilities. If you want to participate, you should also be ready to do a lot of independent studying to learn about what you’re doing and to be pushed to expand your abilities.”

Jameson Horn:

1. “I decided to take part in student research because it interested me and I believe that it is a great way to gain experience in the fields that I see myself working in later in life. I had expressed my desire to conduct student research with some members of the PCSE department, primarily in a way the combines physics with computer science, and was eventually contacted to see if I would like to work with Dr. DeJong on her research. I, of course, eagerly accepted.”

2. “My experience working with Dr. DeJong has been terrific. My role in the research has primarily been to refurbish and augment a program developed by Dr. DeJong that removes dayglow (sunlight) from satellite images of the aurora so that accurate data can be taken from the aurora throughout the year as the amount of dayglow changes.This experience has been great for me and it is just what I was looking for. It perfectly mixes physics with computer science. This internship has actually grown into my senior physics capstone and could become a possible thesis project for my computer science master’s degree.”

3. “My advice for any students looking to take part in student research is to go out and seek opportunities! Ask the professors of the PCSE department if they or a colleague have a project that they could use your help on or search for student research opportunities outside of CNU. Pizza My Mind is an excellent place to do so.”

Be sure to talk to professors in your field if you would like to know more about research opportunities.

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