University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy
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Cynthia Cattell


AMUNDH 385 (office), 626-8918
cattell @


1999-present: Member and organizer of new team for ‘Physics Force’-an outreach group consisting of Physics faculty and high school physics teachers doing large scale, exciting Physics demonstration shows for K12 schools and the general public throughout Minnesota.

Member of various advisory committees for Space Physics and Plasma Physics including the National Academy of Sciences/Committee on Solar Terrestrial Research(1993-1995);
NASA Sun-Earth-Connection Advisory Subcommittee (1998-2001);
NASA Roadmap Committee (2004-2005);
Chair NASA Plasma Sail Assessment Working Group (2003);
National Academy of Sciences/Plasma Sciences Committee (2001-2005);
NASA SSSC Roadmap Committee, 2004-2005;
2008-National Academy of Sciences/ Committee on Science Opportunities Enabled by NASA's Constellation System;
Member, Advisory Committee to UCLA Basic Plasma Science Facility (2004-2007).

Honors: Cotrell Scholar; Fellow, American Geophysical Union; Fellow, American Physical Society; CSE Taylor Award for Service; 2014 Mullen-Spector-Truax Women's Leadership Award

Summary of Interests
Space plasma physics; magnetic and electric field measurements; auroral particle acceleration;particle acceleration processes;non-linear plasma physics; magnetic reconnection and shocks.

About My Work

Energization and loss of relativistic electrons in Van Allen belts

We are using plasma wave and energetic particle data obtained during the 4 perigee passes of the NASA STEREO spacecraft to examine dynamics of the radiation belts. Using observations from STEREO and results of a particle tracing code run on MSI supercomputers, we have shown that electrons can be accelerated by the order of MeV within less than .1s, showing that electron energization can be coherent and rapid rather than stochastic and slow (10s of hours). Studies of electron energization and loss utilizing STEREO and SAMPEX data and development of improved simulations are ongoing.

Waves associated with interplanetary shocks and solar wind electrons

Utilizing particle and waves data from the WIND and STEREO satellites, we are examining dissipation at collisionless shocks. We are also studying a number of wave-particle interaction processes in the solar wind.

Particle acceleration in the aurora

Using in situ particle and fields data from the NASA FAST and Polar satellites and auroral images from IMAGE and TIMED, we are addressing a number of questions associated with the acceleration of electrons and ions in the Earth's auroral regions.

Microphysics of reconnection

Reconnection is a ubiquitous process in magnetized plasmas, converting magnetic field energy to particle energy. Using data from the Polar and Cluster satellites, we are studying microphysics of reconnection, including the role of solitary waves, whistlers and lower hybrid waves.

Selected Publications

K. Kersten, Cynthia Cattell , Aaron Breneman , Keith Goetz , Paul Kellogg , Lynn Wilson III , John Wygant , J. Blake , Mark Looper , Ilan Roth, Observation of relativistic electron microbursts in conjunction with intense radiation belt whistler-mode waves, Geophysical Research Letters [abstract]

C. Cattell et al., Discovery of very large amplitude whistler-mode waves in Earth's radiation belts, Geophys. Res. Let.,35, L01105, doi:10.1029/2007GL032009, 2008 [abstract]

Cattell, C., J. Dombeck, C. Carlson, and J. McFadden, FAST observations of the solar illumination dependence of downgoing auroral electron beams: Relationship to electron energy flux,, J. Geophys. Res., 111, A02201, doi:10.1029/2005JA011337, 2006. [abstract]

C. Cattell, J. Dombeck and J. Wygant, J. F. Drake and M. Swisdak, M. L. Goldstein and W. Keith, A. Fazakerley, M. Andre, . Lucek and A. Balogh, Cluster observations of electron holes in association with magnetotail reconnection and comparison to simulations, J. Geophys. Res., Vol. 110, A01211, doi:10.1029/2004JA010519, 2005 [abstract]

J. F. Drake,M. Swisdak, C. Cattell, M. A. Shay, B. N. Rogers, A. Zeiler, Formation of Electron Holes and Particle Energization During Magnetic Reconnection, Science, 299, Feb. 7, 2003 [abstract]

C. Cattell,J. Dombeck, M. Eskolin, L. Hanson, D. E. Lorshbough, C. W. Carlson,J. McFadden, and M. Temerin, FAST observations of solar illumination and solar cycle dependence of the acceleration of upflowing ion beams on auroral field lines, Journal of Geophysical Research [abstract]

C. Cattell, John Dombeck, Adam Preiwisch, Scott Thaller , Pamela Vo , Lynn Wilson III, John Wygant , Stephen Mende , Harald Frey , Raluca Ilie , Gang Lu, Observations of a high latitude stable electron auroral emission near the cusp at 16 LT during a large substorm, Journal of Geophysical Research [abstract]

L.B. Wilson, C. Cattell, P.J. Kellogg, K. Goetz, K. Kersten, L. Hanson, and R. MacGregor, and J.C. Kasper, Waves in Interplanetary Shocks: A Wind/WAVES Study, Phys. Rev. Lett. 99, 041101 (2007) [abstract]

CA Cattell, J. Crumley, J. Dombeck, JR Wygant, F. S. Mozer , Polar Observations of Solitary Waves at the Earth's Magnetopause, GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 29, NO. 5, 1065, doi:10.1029/2001GL014046, 2002 [abstract]


Ph.D. Univ. of California, Berkeley, 1980
B.A. Hampshire College, 1974