Dr. Kristopher Klein Receives 2022 Landau-Spitzer Award for Outstanding Contributions to Plasma Physics

Oct. 4, 2022

Dr. Kristopher Klein, Assistant Professor in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and the Department of Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona, received the 2022 Landau-Spitzer Award for Outstanding Contributions to Plasma Physics from the American Physical Society (APS). 

The Landau-Spitzer Award for Outstanding Contributions to Plasma Physics recognizes an individual or group of researchers for outstanding theoretical, experimental, or technical contributions in plasma physics and for advancing the collaboration and unity between Europe and the United States of America by joint research or research that advances knowledge that benefits the two communities in a unique way.

Dr. Klein was recognized as part of a team with colleagues in Iowa and London for the theoretical development of the field-particle correlation technique and its application to spacecraft measurements directly showing that Landau damping heats electrons in turbulent plasmas that comprise Earth's magnetosheath.

"This work represents years of collaborations spanning a number of domestic and international institutions, combining theoretical predictions with measurements of near-Earth space in order to better understand fundamental processes at play in our solar system and throughout the Universe," said Dr. Klein. "I am honored to have been a part of this effort and am thankful that APS selected my colleagues and me for the 2022 Landau-Spitzer Award."

Dr. Klein's research focuses on studying fundamental plasma phenomena that govern the dynamics of systems within our heliosphere as well as more distant astrophysical bodies. He has particular interest in identifying heating and energization mechanisms in turbulent plasmas, such as the Sun's extended atmosphere known as the solar wind, as well as evaluating the effects of the departure from local thermodynamic equilibrium on nearly collisionless plasmas which are ubiquitous in space environments.

These systems are studied with a combination of analytic theory and numerical simulation, including large-scale nonlinear turbulence codes such as AstroGK, HVM, and gkyell. These theoretical predictions are compared to in situ observations from spacecraft including NASA's Helios, Wind, MMS, and Parker Solar Probe mission. Comparing theory with local plasma measurements enables answering a variety of questions about the behavior of plasma in our solar system.

Dr. Klein is also helping to lead the design of future heliospheric missions, and is serving as the Deputy Principal Investigator for the HelioSwarm mission, a planned observatory to launch by the end of this decade nine spacecraft to measure the dynamics and evolution of turbulent plasmas at multiple points across multiple scales.

“This award recognizes what we in LPL have long recognized: Dr. Klein is an exceptional young scientist who is making a major impact in the study of the Solar wind,” said Dr. Mark Marley, Director of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at UArizona. “Kris' research not only helps us to understand the complex dynamics of the plasma flowing through the Solar System, but he is also helping to build new collaborations between scientists in the United States and Europe. We are very fortunate to have him here at the University of Arizona."

The American Physical Society (APS) is a nonprofit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents more than 50,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world. More information on the APS can be found here.

Learn more about Dr. Klein and his research here.