Donald Gurnett

Voyager 's voyage to the outer solar system.

MARSIS at Mars

J. A. Van Allen/ R. J. Carver Professor of Physics

Ph.D., Astrophysics, University of Iowa 1965

Contact Information

Department of Physics and Astronomy

University of Iowa, 715 Van Allen Hall

Phone: 319-335-1697, FAX: 319-335-1753

Email: donald-gurnett [at]

Home page:

Biographical Information

Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Prof. Gurnett started his science career by working on spacecraft electronics design as a student employee in The University of Iowa Physics Department in 1959. After completing his B.S. in electrical engineering at the University of Iowa in 1962, he transferred to physics, where he received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in 1963 and 1965. He spent one year, from 1964 to 1965, as a NASA Trainee at Stanford University; was appointed Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa in 1965 with subsequent promotions to Associate Professor and to Professor in 1968 and 1972. Since then he spent one year on leave 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. 

Research Interests

Prof. Gurnett specializes in the study of space plasma physics and has participated in over 30 spacecraft projects, most notably the Voyager 1 and 2 flights to the outer planets, the Galileo mission to Jupiter, the Cassini mission to Saturn, and the Mars Express mission to Mars. He is the author or co-author of over 450 scientific publications, primarily in the area of magnetospheric radio and plasma wave research, and has supervised 50 M.S. and Ph.D. thesis projects. Prof. Gurnett has received numerous awards for his research. 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, the 1989 Excellence in Plasma Physics Award from the American Physical Society, and the 2005 Hannes Alfven Medal from the European Geosciences Union. In 1990 he received the University of Iowa M. L. Huit Faculty Award for outstanding service and dedication to students at the University of Iowa, and in 1994 he received the Iowa Board of Regents Award for Faculty Excellence. In 1998 he was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and in 2004 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  

Current Research Projects

My current research program includes three somewhat disparate topics

Voyager 1 and 2 Interstellar Mission (Plasma Wave Investigation)

Cassini Mission to Saturn (Radio and Plasma Wave Science Investigation)

Mars Express (Ionospheric Radar Investigation)

Selected Publications

High-Latitude Geophysical Studies with Satellite Injun 3;  5.  Very-Low-Frequency (VLF) Electromagnetic Radiation, D. A. GURNETT and B. J. O'BRIEN, J. Geophys. Res., 69, 65-89, 1964.

Ion Cyclotron Whistlers, D. A. GURNETT, S. D. SHAWHAN, N. M. BRICE, and R. L. SMITH, J. Geophys. Res., 70, 1665-1688, 1965.

The Earth as a Radio Source:  Terrestrial Kilometric Radiation, D. A. GURNETT, J. Geophys. Res., 79, 4227-4238, 1974.

Whistlers Observed by Voyager 1:  Detection of Lightning on Jupiter, D. A. GURNETT, R. R. SHAW, R. R. ANDERSON, W. S. KURTH, and F. L. SCARF, Geophys. Res. Lett., 6, 511-514, 1979.

Plasma Waves near Saturn:  Initial Results from Voyager 1, D. A. GURNETT, W. S. KURTH, and F. L. SCARF, Science, 212, 235-239, 1981.

First Plasma Wave Observations at Uranus, D. A. GURNETT, W. S. KURTH, F. L. SCARF, and R. L. POYNTER, Science, 233, 106-109, 1986.

First Plasma Wave Observations at Neptune, D. A. GURNETT, W. S. KURTH, R. L. POYNTER, L. J. GRANROTH, I. H. CAIRNS, W. M. MACEK, S. L. MOSES, F. V. CORONITI, C. F. KENNEL, and D. D. BARBOSA, Science, 246, 1494-1498, 1989. 

Radio Emission from the Heliopause Triggered by an Interplanetary Shock, D. A. GURNETT, W. S. KURTH, S. C. ALLENDORF, and R. L. POYNTER, Science, 262, 199-203, 1993.

Micron-Sized Dust Particles Detected in the Outer Solar System by the Voyager Plasma Wave Instruments, D. A. GURNETT, J. A. ANSHER, W. S. KURTH, and L. J. GRANROTH, Geophys. Res. Lett., 24, 3125-3128, 1997. 

Radar Soundings of the Ionosphere of Mars, D. A. GURNETT, D. L. KIRCHNER, R. L. HUFF, D. D. MORGAN, A. M. PERSOON, T. F. AVERKAMP, F. DURU, E. NIELSEN, A. SAFAEINILI, J. J. PLAUT, and G. PICARDI, Science, 310, 1929-1933, Dec. 23, 2005.

The Variable Rotation Period of the Inner Region of Saturn's Plasma Disk, D. A. GURNETT, A. M. PERSOON, W. S. KURTH, J. B. GROENE, T. F. AVERKAMP, M. K. DOUGHERTY, and D. J. SOUTHWOOD, Science, 316, No. 5823, pp. 442-445, doi:10.1126/science.1138562, published online March 22, 2007.  

Intense Plasma Waves Observed At and Near the Solar Wind Termination Shock, D. A. GURNETT and W. S. KURTH, Nature, 454, 78-80, doi:10.1038/nature07023, July 3, 2008.

Copyright University of Iowa 2016