About me

I grew up near the fairy tale world of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley in Germany and graduated from the Marion-Dönhoff-Gymnasium (High School) in Lahnstein. I studied physics and nuclear chemistry at the Universität Bonn and received my Master's degree (Diplom-Physiker) with Calibration systems for space borne neutral mass spectrometers. I continued with Prof. Ulf von Zahn and Dr. Franz-Josef Lübken and eventually graduated after participating in many (17) sounding rocket launches from Norway, Sweden, and France, analyzing temperature and turbulence measurements in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere. I also used passive falling sphere and chaff foil cloud trajectories to measure winds and temperatures. A science highlight were the first in situ neutral turbulence measurements of polar mesospheric summer echoes (PMSE) (Lübken et al., GRL, 1993).

Then I worked as National Research Council (NRC) research associate at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Laboratory for Extraterrestrial Physics, in Greenbelt, Maryland, with Dr. Richard Goldberg. I was one of many resident aliens there. I worked on a NASA sounding rocket experiment launched from Alcântara, Brazil, together with Profs. Jack Mitchell and Charlie Croskey (The Pennsylvania State University), Prof. Martin Friedrich (TU Graz), Dr. Frank Schmidlin (NASA Wallops Flight Facility), and Dr. Dave Fritts (Boulder, Colorado). I also used global datasets from the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) to study the impact of highly relativistic electrons on mesospheric ozone. I stayed involved with Prof. von Zahn's Galileo Probe Helium Abundance Detector, and was lucky to join the party at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the probe's entry into Jupiter's dense atmosphere and perform the data analysis (Seiff et al., Science, 1996).

Next stop was the Bergische Universität Wuppertal, where I worked in the team of Prof. Dirk Offermann on the Cryogenic Infrared Spectrometers and Telescopes (CRISTA) Shuttle Pallet Satellite (SPAS) missions. After coordinating a world-wide ground based, rocket and balloon campaign for validation and supporting measurements (a fine example was launching small rockets from Wallops Island to make common volume measurements with the limb viewing satellite (Lehmacher et al., JASR, 2000), designing a web based data viewer and the mission web site, and diving into the secrets of limb radiance profile retrievals, my wife, 2-year old son, and I decided to move back to the United States, where she could pursue her career as Master Social Worker and therapist.

Out of the blue, I was offered a position at Western Kentucky University (WKU) at the Department of Physics and Astronomy with Prof. Charles McGruder. I helped developing undergraduate research opportunities in space research and also taught undergraduate physics. My activities included presenting to Sen. Mitch McConnell at the dedication of the refurbished WKU telescope, consulting with Dr. Alan Stern about chasing lunar occultations of extrasolar planets with the old SR-71 Blackbird, releasing ozonesonde balloons at University of Alabama Huntsville and also at WKU, visiting the National Center for Atmospheric Research High Altitude Observatory (NCAR-HAO) to learn TIME-GCM post-processing (Dr. Maura Hagan, Dr. Hanli Liu) and running a version of the ROSE global circulation model (Dr. Anne Smith) on my linux box. I took great interest in mesospheric echoes observed with the Jicamarca Radio Observatory (Lehmacher and Kudeki, ASR, 2003), and was funded by NASA to launch rockets from Peru to study them up close.

In order to do both - teaching and research - I searched and accepted a tenure-track position in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Clemson University. The rocket campaign was delayed and even moved to Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. The first of my two payloads suffered an instrument power failure and I spent several extra weeks on an island paradise. In the end, we launched on a day with huge tidal activity; even the ionospheric valley region was modulated by tides (Friedrich et al., GRL, 2006). I diversified my research with NSF funded Jicamarca radar studies (in collaboration with Prof. Erhan Kudeki, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, including an 8-month sabbatical with my family in Peru), and new in situ measurements of neutral densities with commercial-off-the-shelf ionization gauges (in collaboration with Prof. Miguel Larsen). Current research activities are described here.

I keep learning to teach physics, a variety of topics, from first-year undergraduates to graduate students. This is most rewarding, when students appreciate the teaching and take some important things away from my class. Prof. Meriwether and I developed a new general education course "Physics of Global Climate Change" which I teach regularly to more and more students of all majors and semesters. Last fall we had over 120 students and with help of the Clemson Center for Geospatial Technologies we designed beautiful ArcGIS Story Maps on climate change impacts. Here is a list of courses I have taught so far.

I am thankful for all my mentors and colleagues, and of course, my wife, and my children, who are now in college or almost in college . I appreciate what they have taught me and are still teaching me ("mindfulness", "memes") and I hope to be a good mentor to students and others.

Visiting Denali National Park with Prof. Richard Collins, University of Alaska.

The CRISTA-SPAS-2 free-flyer seen from the Space Shuttle (STS-85).

With WKU students at UAH learning how to release an ozonesonde.