College of Arts and Sciences

Space Plasma Physics

Contact Information

Dr. Heidi Nykyri

Associate Professor

Physical Sciences

Work: 386-226-6714



Dr. Nykyri works on space plasma physics research analyzing data from different space missions e.g. Cluster and Themis and developing numerical simulations of plasma processes.
She is a co-investigator for Flux Gate Magnetometer instrument onboard 4 Cluster spacecraft.
She frequently hires ERAU engineering physics undergraduate students to work on the Space Plasma Laboratory at LB322 to assist her on her research projects. She also has one engineering physics M.S student and ERAU’s first Ph.D student working on the projects funded by National Science Foundation. Below are descriptions of her two research areas.

1. Turbulence and Structure in the Magnetospheric Cusps: Cluster Spacecraft Observations and Numerical Simulations. In this projected sponsored by National Science Foundation Dr. Nykyri is utilizing 4 spacecraft Cluster mission to analyze data at the high-altitude cusp and surrounding regions in order to understand the properties and origin of magnetic field fluctuations and source of high-energy particles in this region. She has had 4 undergraduate students
working in this project and 1 master’s student, Chrisitna Chu who is just finishing a 3-year statistical study of the magnetic field wave power at the high-altitude cusp and surrounding regions.   This project is finishing in May 2011.

2. Effects of the Magnetosheath Properties on the Dynamics and Plasma Transport Produced by the Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability and on the Plasma Sheet Anisotropies. The study will address several topics: 1) The statistical study of the occurrence of the Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability (KHI) at the Earth's magnetosphere and the associated magnetosheath and plasma sheet properties; 2) The influence of the Mach numbers and plasma beta on the plasma transport produced by the KHI; 3) The effects of the KHI and magnetosheath processes and properties on the dawn-dusk asymmetries of the plasma sheet; 4) The coupling of the magnetospheric KHI into the ionosphere; 5) Comparison between MHD, hybrid and kinetic simulations of the KHI; 6) The study of the Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability at Mars and Venus. These topics are of central importance for understanding the global magnetospheric dynamics, cross-scale coupling of space plasmas, and plasma dynamics in the vicinity of non-magnetized planets.
Embry-Riddle’s first Ph.D student, Alexander Sjogren is working on the statistical study of magnetosheath properties vs. different solar wind conditions. Project finishes in 2015.

1. Plasmaspheric modelling. The plasmasphere is a torus-shaped region of space between about 3,000 km and 40,000 km altitude, at low latitudes. It is a part of the Earth's magnetosphere. The plasma in this region affects ground-to-satellite communications and also navigation. Accurate models of the structure and dynamics of the plasma density and temperature in this region are important to understanding its effect on spacecraft and communications.
2. Electric Propulsion. Electric propulsion engines (e.g., ion engines, magnetoplasmadynamic thrusters, and Hall thrusters) can have exhaust velocities that are a factor of ten larger than conventional chemical rockets. These high velocities guarantee a low fuel mass fraction, which is ideal for high-efficiency missions, but also generate low thrust, which necessitates long mission travel times. Recently, Hall thrusters have been under intense scrutiny to improve their performance characteristics so that they can be useful for more than just stationkeeping duties. We are currently developing a 2D fluid model in order to investigate the effect of the magnetic field structure in the acceleration region on the performance characteristics. Two dimensions will include the magnetic field gradients self-consistently and will allow a realistic treatment of the plasma interaction with the walls (i.e., the sheath).


Heidi Nykyri Dr. Heidi Nykyri

Associate Professor

Physical Sciences

Dr. Heidi Nykyri is a physical Sciences associate professor in the Physical Sciences Department of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach College of Arts & Sciences.

Mark Reynolds Dr. Mark Anthony Reynolds

Associate Professor, PS Curriculum Coordinator

Physical Sciences

Anthony Reynolds is the Curriculum Coordinator for Physical Sciences, coordinating the lower division physics and chemistry courses. He conducts research in space plasma physics, and focuses on nonlinear waves and electric propulsion. He is also the Faculty Advisor to the Society of Physics Students.