Jan J Sojka
Center for Atmospheric & Space Sciences
Assistant Director, Ctr Atmos Space Sciences and Head, Department of Physics
Jan J. Sojka was born and educated through to high school in the south of Scotland. He attended Edinburgh University where he received his B.Sc. degree in Physics. His Ph.D. research was carried out at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL), a research facility of the University College, London, UK. The dissertation research involved launching sounding rockets from Andoya, Norway, into the aurora to measure suprathermal auroral electron fluxes. During his MSSL 5-year stay, he also was part of a team that flew nine sounding rockets and used observations on the ESA GOES-I and GOES-II satellites. In 1978, he moved to Utah to join the Center for Atmospheric and Space Sciences (CASS) and began his global ionospheric modeling research. At USU, his position ranged from Postdoctoral Fellow to currently the Head of the Department of Physics and Assistant Director for CASS. During the period 2010 through 2012, he served as President of the Space Physics and Aeronomy (SPA) section of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).
Jan J. Sojka currently carries out research in several parallel areas of ionospheric science. His primary contribution to the USU-CASS ionospheric modeling group led by Professor Robert W. Schunk is the interface between ionospheric observation and theory in which model simulations provide the tangible medium for comparison with measurements, hence, his leading role in extensive model-observation studies.
As a Professor of Physics, Dr. Sojka teaches formal classes and mentors undergraduate as well as graduate students at Utah State University. For the entire period he has been at USU, he has been involved in mentoring interdisciplinary students in the NASA Get Away Special (GAS) program and has been the faculty advisor to the GAS program for 20 years. The GAS team, which annually tallies 15-30 undergraduate students involved in designing, fabricating, testing and flying experiments in space, has flown twelve GAS payloads on the NASA Space Shuttle, more than 10 zero-G flights on the ESA and NASA zero-G airplanes, placed a long duration experiment on the International Space Station, and currently is developing a CubeSat. Currently, he also has two Ph.D. students and, as Head of the Department of Physics, has “oversight” of its students. Eight Ph.D. students and thirteen MS students have completed their advanced degrees under his mentorship. All of these mentorship efforts lie in the Space Research arena.
I was born in Duns, Berwickshire, Scotland to a Polish father and German mother and was educated in the United Kingdom through a system that, in retrospect, was ideally tuned for my hopes and compensated-for weaknesses. As an eleven-year-old, I knew my career would be in space research—a rocket scientist. Yuri Gargarin was launched into space on my birthday! At the same time, I failed the 11-plus UK national exam!
The elementary schools in both the rural villages of Fogo and Gordon, Berwickshire, provided a second-to-none environment to play and enjoy learning. Galashiels Academy, Selkirkshire, provided the educational bridge to Physics—a stepping-stone to Space Science through the turbulent waters of French and English! Edinburgh University’s four years of tuned undergraduate studies in Physics, with almost one full year of laboratory work, was awesome, although “E&M” still gives me an appreciation of my limitations. Sadly, this was James Clark Maxwell’s “good stuff!”