NRL Research Physicist Receives Sigma Xi Mid-Atlantic Regional Young Investigator Award

3/22/2004 - 13-04r
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Dr. Bill Amatucci, of the Naval Research Laboratory's Plasma Physics Division, received the Sigma Xi Mid-Atlantic Regional Young Investigator Award for 2004 in the area of physical sciences and engineering. Sigma Xi's Young Investigator Award recognizes scientists for outstanding research within 10 years of their highest earned degree and their ability to communicate their research to the public. The selection for the Mid-Atlantic Young Investigator Award was made by the director and associate director of the region. Dr. Richard LoPinto, director of the Mid-Atlantic Region, stated that Dr. Amatucci was selected "because of his innovative and heuristic work that was given high praise by his colleagues."

Dr. Amatucci came to the Laboratory in 1994 as a National Research Council postdoctoral fellow. Then, from 1996 to 1997, he worked as an SFA, Inc. contractor before he was hired as a research physicist in the Plasma Physics Division in 1997. Dr. Amatucci became head of the Space Experiments Section in the Charged Particle Physics Branch in 2000. His group is responsible for conducting laboratory investigations relevant to the near-Earth space environment. Such experiments are conducted in NRL's Space Physics Simulation Chamber.

Space Chamber research is performed in conjunction with theorists and scientists who observe space phenomena from sounding rockets, satellites, or ground-based radars, explains Dr. Amatucci. By combining laboratory experiments with space observations and theory or modeling, a much more complete understanding of the physics at work in the space environment emerges. Recent work by the Space Experiments group to test and validate theoretical models developed at NRL has helped to improve understanding of the important role played by localized electric fields in ionospheric and magnetospheric wave generation and plasma energization. The group's research has also led to new innovations in plasma diagnostics and novel methods for discharging highly charged satellites. Current space chamber research is directed toward understanding the three-dimensional nature of the magnetic reconnection process, the dynamics of Earth's radiation belts, and the formation of lower hybrid solitary structures in the ionosphere.

Dr. Amatucci received his B.A. and B.S. degrees in physics and mathematics from Saint Vincent College in 1986 and 1988, respectively. Due to a lifelong interest in space and an interest in electricity and magnetism sparked by a Saint Vincent College professor, he went on to study experimental plasma physics at West Virginia University. There he received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in 1991 and 1994, respectively.

In addition to receiving the 2004 Sigma Xi Mid-Atlantic Regional Young Investigator Award, Dr. Amatucci was a co-recipient of the 2001 NRL-Edison Chapter of Sigma Xi Young Investigator Award and received an Alan Berman Research Publication Award in 2004.

He is a member of the American Physical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the International Union of Radio Science, the American Association of Physics Teachers, Sigma Xi, and Sigma Pi Sigma. Dr. Amatucci also serves as an adjunct physics professor at Northern Virginia Community College, a position he has held since 1995.

Founded in 1886, Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, is a non-profit membership society of more than 70,000 scientists and engineers who were elected to the Society because of their research achievements or potential. Sigma Xi has more than 500 chapters at universities and colleges, government laboratories and industry research centers, including the NRL-Edison Chapter of Sigma Xi.

In addition to publishing American Scientist, Sigma Xi awards grants annually to promising young researchers, holds forums on critical issues at the intersection of science and society, and sponsors a variety of programs supporting honor in science and engineering, science education, science policy, and the public understanding of science.

Sigma Xi's Young Investigator Award, which includes a certificate of recognition and a monetary award, was presented to its first recipient at the 1998 Annual Meeting. The Young Investigator Award alternates between the physical sciences, including engineering and mathematics, and the life sciences, including social sciences.

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