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Mission Team

Principal Investigator for WBD


Jolene Pickett
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa

Nationality: American

Ms. Pickett was born in the USA in 1951.  She became interested in space travel and research at an early age as a result of watching the flashing carrier rocket associated with the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, fly over her small piece of the world in the fall of 1957, issuing in the dawn of the space age.  Not long after that she began to check out and avidly read every book on rocketry that could be had in her small town library.  She went on to study at the University of Iowa, home of the space research pioneer James Van Allen, receiving a degree in Physics and Astronomy in 1982.  She immediately began carrying out research with Dr. Stan Shawhan and Dr. Nicola D'Angelo of The University of Iowa using data obtained from an Iowa-built satellite, the Plasma Diagnostics Package (PDP) which was flown on two early Space Shuttle missions and which made measurements while sitting in the payload bay, being manoeuvred on Canadian robotic arm, and free-flying around the orbiter.  The primary research she undertook with the PDP data was the study of the effects of orbiter chemical releases (water dumps, thruster firings, engine burns) on the plasma and neutral environment of the shuttle, in addition to the variations in density and DC potential observed primarily in the wake and ram directions of the Shuttle Orbiter.

From March 1987 through November 1994, Ms. Pickett was the Principal Investigator of the Neutral Pressure Measurements experiment on the Space Power Experiments Aboard Rockets (SPEAR) program.  Using data from a series of three SPEAR rocket flights, Ms. Pickett investigated the effects of neutral gas releases, payload outgassing and high voltage discharges in space as related to ongoing power and grounding experiments.

In 1995 Ms. Pickett became the Science Data Manager for the Polar Plasma Wave Investigation, working under the Principal Investigator, Dr. Donald Gurnett, bringing her under the umbrella of the International Solar Terrestrial Physics (ISTP) program.  ISTP is largely considered to have come to fruition in the U.S. through the untiring efforts of Dr. Stan Shawhan, who left Iowa in late 1983 to spearhead NASA's effort in this international program which consisted of coordinating solar-terrestrial research in a synergistic manner, taking advantage of the unique resources and already planned space missions by the United States, Europe and Japan.  At the time Ms. Pickett felt "it was an immense privilege to be able to carry out research with data from one of the ISTP satellites since Dr. Shawhan, with whom she had begun her research career, is largely considered to be the father of ISTP in the U.S.  Without his unceasing efforts, often wrought with frustration due to various political issues and barriers, ISTP might never have been realized as early as it did.  Unfortunately, we lost Dr. Shawhan in 1990 at the age of 49, but we are still carrying on the work for which he fought so hard and won".  Ms. Pickett began her primary research on nonlinear electrostatic solitary waves and their role in boundary layer processes using the high time resolution Polar PWI waveform data.

In 1999, an opportunity arose for Ms. Pickett to work on the Cluster Wideband Data (WBD) plasma wave experiment, taking on the role of Science and Operations Manager under the direction of the Principal Investigator, Dr. Donald Gurnett.  Being able to remain in the ISTP program working on one of the premier ESA missions would prove to be extremely rewarding for Ms. Pickett due to the interaction with the wider international community, particularly in Europe.  NASA named Ms. Pickett a Cluster WBD Co-Investigator in 2001, and she continued to carry on her solitary wave research with the WBD data.  The Cluster orbit was ideal for carrying out this research due to the many boundary layers and turbulent regions which are crossed.  In addition, the challenge of investigating solitary waves through analysis of multi-spacecraft Cluster WBD data has been a very rewarding challenge.  In early 2006, Dr. Gurnett asked her if she would like to take over as Principal Investigator on WBD.  Ms. Pickett was "most honoured to accept this immense responsibility" and NASA officially named her Cluster WBD Principal Investigator in May 2006. 

When Ms. Pickett is not hard at work on Cluster, she is usually reading or off hiking and enjoying the beauty of nature with her husband, Rich Huff.  As Program Manager for both the first and second suites of Cluster WBD instruments, Rich unselfishly devoted a large part of his life to ensuring that the WBD instruments were properly designed, built, tested, integrated and commissioned.  Without his efforts, the Cluster WBD research program thus far would not have had the success it currently enjoys.

Last Update: 28 February 2014

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