Sciences and Exploration Directorate



ELIZABETH A MACDONALD's Contact Card & Information.
Org Code: 675
Mail Code 675
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Brief Bio

My research has focused on experimental particle measurement techniques and data analysis in the magnetosphere and ionosphere for the last 15 years. Currently I am a Co-I on the Helium, Oxygen, Proton, and Electron Spectrometer on the NASA Radiation Belts Storm Probe mission. At Los Alamos National Laboratory, I was the PI for the Z-Plasma Spectrometer on the DOE Space and Atmospheric Burst Reporting System (SABRS) geosynchronous payload. I also led the Innovative Research and Integrated Sensing (IRIS) team in my group ( In the recent past I've led the DoE-funded Technology Infusion Project entitled Modular Advanced Space Environment Instrumentation (from 2009-2011) and served as the PI for the Advanced Miniaturized Plasma Spectrometer on the DOE SABRS Validation Experiment payload (2007-2008).

I have a blend of expertise in both instrument development and data analysis and interpretation that comes from sounding rocket and satellite instrumentation experience. This experience ranges over the complete cycle of instrument production, including design and modeling, integration and testing, calibration, satellite operations, and in situ scientific data analysis. As a result, I'm very interested in instrument technology development, basic magnetospheric science, and space situational awareness national priorities. My specific research interests include wave-particle interactions and the effect of plasma on radiation belt dynamics, mapping, coupling, and transport between the ionosphere and the inner magnetosphere, and the impact of heavy ions on geomagnetic storm processes.

I received my Masters and PhD degrees from the University of New Hampshire. I received a Bachelor's in Physics from the University of Washington, largely funded by a NASA Space Grant scholarship. I began work in Code 673 in February 2014. 

Research Interests

Plasma mass spectrometry and instrument technology development, wave-particle interactions and the effect of plasma on radiation belt dynamics, mapping and coupling between the ionosphere and the inner magnetosphere, the impact of heavy ions on geomagnetic storm processes, and space weather.

Heliophysics: Earth's Magnetosphere

Google scholar link:

Selected Publications:

 MacDonald, E. A., L. W. Blum, S. P. Gary, M. F. Thomsen, and M. H. Denton, High-speed stream driven inferences of global wave distributions at geosynchronous orbit; relevance to radiation belt dynamics, Proc. of the Royal Society, 2010.

Blum, L. W., E. A. MacDonald, S. P. Gary, M. F. Thomsen, H. E. Spence, Ion Observations from Geosynchronous Orbit as a Proxy for Ion Cyclotron Wave Growth During Storm Times, J. Geophys. Res., 114, A10214, doi:10.1029/2009JA014396.

MacDonald, E., H. Funsten, E. Dors, M. Thomsen, P. Janzen, R. Skoug, G. Reeves, J. Steinberg, R. Harper, D. Young, J. -M. Jahn, and D. Reisenfeld, New Magnetospheric Ion Composition Measurement Techniques, FUTURE PERSPECTIVES OF SPACE PLASMA AND PARTICLE INSTRUMENTATION AND INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATIONS: Proceedings of the International Conference. AIP Conference Proceedings, Volume 1144, pp. 168-172, 2009.

MacDonald, E. A., M. H. Denton, M. F. Thomsen, and S. P. Gary, Superposed epoch analysis of a whistler instability criterion at geosynchronous orbit during geomagnetic storms, J. of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, 70, 14, 2008.

MacDonald, E., K. A. Lynch, M. Widholm, R. Arnoldy, P. M. Kintner, E. M. Klatt, M. Samara, J. LaBelle, and G. Lapenta, In Situ Measurement of Thermal Electrons on the SIERRA Nightside Auroral Sounding Rocket, J. Geophys. Res., 111, A12310, doi:10.1029/2005JA011493, 2006.

MacDonald, E., M. Thomsen, H. Funsten, Background in Channel Electron Multiplier Detectors Due to Penetrating Radiation in Space, IEEE Trans. Nucl. Sci., June 2006.

Professional Societies

American Geophysical Union

1998 - Present

Professional Service

Geospace Environment Modeling (NSF) steering committee member (2010-2013) and focus group leader for Scientific Magnetic Mapping and Techniques (2010-2015)

Selected Public Outreach

I lead an innovative, interdisciplinary project called Aurorasaurus, whose aim is to create a mobile platform for citizen scientists to interactively report and improve space weather nowcasting in this, the first solar maximum with social media.

December 2011 - Present


I am actively involved in educational outreach efforts aimed at increasing diversity in technical fields and communicating the beauty of science.

Outside of work I like to hike, climb, and ski in nature.