PI for WBD until 2006
Professor Gurnett was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in the United States.
He started his science career by working as a student employee on spacecraft instrumentation design in the Iowa Physics Department in 1958, shortly after the launch of America's first satellite, Explorer 1. After completing his Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering, he transferred to physics, in which he received his Master's degree and doctorate.
After spending one year (1964 - 1965) as a NASA Trainee at Stanford University, he was appointed Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa, with subsequent promotions to Associate Professor in 1968 and then to Professor in 1972. Since then he has taken one year out as an Alexander Von Humbold Senior Scientist at the Max-Planck-Institut in Garching, Germany, and one year on leave as a visiting professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Gurnett specialises in the study of space plasma physics and radio emissions, and has participated as a Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator in over 25 major NASA spacecraft projects, most notably the Voyager 1 and 2 flights to the outer planets, the Galileo mission to Jupiter, and the Cassini mission to Saturn.
His research group also has a long history of involvement in European space missions. These include instruments on the Helios 1 and 2 spacecraft, which flew closer to the Sun than any other spacecraft; the ISEE 1 and 2 spacecraft, which in many respects were the predecessors of the Cluster mission; the AMPTE spacecraft, which were the first to produce and study artificial comets in the solar wind and Earth's magnetosphere; and most recently, the Mars Express mission, which is to be placed in orbit around Mars in 2003.
"When the Cluster opportunity was first announced in 1987, it just seemed natural for us to propose an instrument," he said. "Thankfully, we were selected to provide an instrument for this very important mission. By providing multi-point measurements on small spatial scales, Cluster will open a new era in magnetospheric plasma research."
Professor Gurnett is the author or co-author of over 370 scientific publications, primarily in the area of magnetospheric radio and plasma wave research.
He has received numerous awards for his research and teaching. These include the 1978 John Howard Dellinger Gold Medal from the International Scientific Radio Union, the 1989 John Adam Fleming Medal from the American Geophysical Union, and the 1989 Excellence in Plasma Physics Award from the American Physical Society. In 1998 he was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.