Gregory Howes Inaugural Recipient of the Ronald C. Davidson Award for Plasma Physics

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 25, 2016 – AIP Publishing has announced that Gregory Howes, an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Iowa, is the winner of the inaugural 2016 Ronald C. Davidson Award for Plasma Physics. The award will be presented annually in collaboration with the American Physical Society (APS) Division of Plasma Physics, recognizing outstanding plasma physics research by a Physics of Plasmas author.

"We at AIP Publishing and Physics of Plasmas are delighted to announce Gregory Howes as the recipient of the Inaugural Ron Davidson Award," said Jason Wilde, Chief Publishing Officer at AIP Publishing. "This award was created in the name of Ron Davidson, who as founding Editor-in-Chief of Physics of Plasmas for 25 years was a 'father figure' to the plasma physics community."

As voted on by the Physics of Plasmas Editorial Board, Gregory Howes was selected from a short list of the most impactful papers, representing all topical focus areas in Physics of Plasmas during the past five years. His paper titled “A weakened cascade model for turbulence in astrophysical plasmas,” Phys. Plasmas, 18, 102305 (2011), was co-authored with Jason TenBarge and William Dorland at the University of Maryland. Howes and his collaborators were the first group to run supercomputer simulations of the kinetic turbulence in solar wind.

Howes had predicted what the turbulent energy spectrum should look like at the small scale where electrons dissipate the turbulence. His simulations, however, did not reconcile with his prediction and he assumed there was an error in the in the simulation. A year later, spacecraft measurements of the turbulence in the solar wind were published, experimentally validating the simulation model.

“I thought long and hard about what must be happening, and that led me to the weakened cascade model,” Howes explained. “The missing element was that one cannot assume that turbulent interactions are strictly local -- when turbulence is being dissipated, nonlocal interactions play an increasingly important role, and that effect explained both the simulations and observations.”

Plasma physics first drew Howes’ interest with the promise of harnessing nuclear fusion as the energy source of the future. Ultimately, however, he found the nuclear fusion program held less appeal for him than the quest to answer fundamental questions about the universe using plasma physics as a lens. “Although the entire community of plasma physicists makes essential contributions to the progress of our field, it seems that a single researcher in plasma astrophysics can have a much larger impact on the field,” Howes said.

Howes was recognized in 2010 by President Obama as one of 94 researchers who received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government to science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. He is deeply humbled by the Davidson Award. “I am extremely honored to win the inaugural Ron Davidson award,” Howes said. “His broad impact on the field of plasma physics is something to which all young scientists aspire, and I hope that my contributions to our field are worthy of his legacy.”

The award, which includes a cash prize of $5,000, will be presented to Gregory Howes on Wednesday, November 2, 2016 during the APS Division of Plasma Physics Banquet and Reception by John Haynes, Chief Executive Officer of AIP Publishing, and Ronald Davidson Jr., the son of the late Ronald C. Davidson.

About the Ronald C. Davidson Award for Plasma Physics

The new award is provided by AIP Publishing in honor of Ronald Davidson’s exceptional contributions as Editor-in-Chief of Physics of Plasmas for 25 years. The annual award of $5,000 is presented in collaboration with the American Physical Society's Division of Plasma Physics and recognizes outstanding plasma physics research by a Physics of Plasmas author.

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