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Idaho 2011

from ESTEC the day Huygens arrived at Titan in 2005

David H. Atkinson
Department of Electrical Engineering
University of Idaho
Spaceward Bound Expedition Mojave Idaho 2011

Who I am
My name is David Atkinson, and I’m a Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Idaho. For the past 30 years, I have been an active participant in a number of NASA programs, both research and educational. Among my most recent activities, I was a Co-Investigator on the NASA/ESA (European Space Agency) Cassini/Huygens Doppler Wind Experiment that successfully measured the winds in the atmosphere of Titan (the largest moon of Saturn) in 2005, and I led the European Space Agency Huygens Probe Descent Trajectory Working Group. A bit deeper into my past - I was the Principle Investigator on the Galileo (Jupiter) probe Doppler Wind Experiment, providing the first measurements of the very deep atmospheric winds on Jupiter.

My Background and Career Path
I am a professor of Electrical Engineering with a background in teaching responsibilities for electromagnetic theory. My research interests are in the fields of physics and astronomy, primarily planetary sciences, and science education. I have undergraduate degrees from Whitman College in 1977 (Astronomy/Physics) and from Washington State University in 1980 (Electrical Engineering), a Master's degree in Applied Physics from Stanford University in 1981, and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Washington State University in 1989. During the summers of 1980 and 1981 I was a summer intern at NASA Ames Research Center, and I was hired by NASA as a systems engineer on the Galileo probe in 1981. From 1981 through 1986 I worked at NASA Ames Research Center on the Galileo probe mission, and as an optical engineer on the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF). During this period I also taught undergraduate and graduate astronomy labs at Stanford University. In 1986 I returned to Washington State University under the NASA Graduate Student Researchers Program to complete my PhD, and I was hired as an Assistant Professor at the University of Idaho in 1989.

In 1997 I completed a research sabbatical at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory working on the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan, and from 1998-2000 I was a Space Grant Fellow in the Education Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.

Among my more recent activities, I’m a co-investigator on a Discovery proposal for a balloon mission to Venus, and a co-investigator on a Venus entry probe and lander mission. I’m also a co-investigator on team studying a possible future entry probe mission to Saturn.

My Research Interests
My interests are in planetary probe exploration of atmospheres in the solar system. Planetary radio sciences. In particular, entry probe measurements of atmospheric winds of the outer planets and Titan. A key element and overarching theme of all my work is to provide opportunities for students to become engaged and participate in NASA research programs, whether through summer internships at NASA centers, participation in scientific balloon programs at the university, support of senior design projects, attendance and presentation of student research at scientific conferences, and sponsoring programs for younger students through the NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium.

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Editor: Linda Conrad
NASA Official: Liza Coe
Last Updated: March 2011