Dr. Patricia Reiff
2022 Distinguished Alumni
Ph.D. Space Physics & Astronomy
Patricia Reiff earned her undergraduate degree from Oklahoma State University in 1971. She went on to Rice University to earn her masters in space science and her Ph.D. in space physics and astronomy.
Dr. Reiff is now a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Rice University and was the founding director of the Rice Space Institute. Her research focuses on space plasma physics, mostly in the area of magnetospheric physics, or “space weather.”
She received her Ph.D. analyzing data from the Charged Particle Lunar Environment Experiment, which was part of the Apollo 14 mission. She was a co-investigator on the PEACE plasma instrument on the ESA Cluster II 4-spacecraft suite — launched in 2000 — and is a Co-I for the science and E/PO (Education and Public Outreach) on the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission that launched in 2015.
Reiff was the first person to prove, using Dynamics Explorer dual spacecraft data, that the aurora is caused by a mid-altitude electric field. She was a Co-I on the IMAGE magnetospheric imaging mission and was the first to propose radio sounding of the magnetosphere.
She is instrumental in bringing real-time space weather forecasts and “Space Weather” information to the public. She is a partner in the NASA Heliophysics Education Activation Team and has created iClips, immersive educational clips for use in planetarium domes.