Robert Lysak

Bob Lysak

Robert Lysak

Professor, School of Physics and Astronomy


John T. Tate Hall
Room 285-18
116 Church Street Se
Minneapolis, MN 55455


Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics (MIfA)
Space Physics


Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 1980

B.S., Michigan State University, 1975

Professional Background

Member, National Academy of Sciences, Solar and Space Physics Survey

Member, Geospace Environmental Modeling Steering Committee, 2010-present

Senior Editor, Journal of Geophysical Research-Space Physics, 2010-2013

Fellow, American Geophysical Union, 2011

Graduate School Fellowship Committee, member; 2006-08; co-chair, 2008-10

Best Dissertation Award Committee, Graduate School, 2005-08

Main Scientific Organizer, Symposium on “Ionosphere-Magnetosphere Coupling: The Role of Alfvén Waves in Auroral Processes,” 37th COSPAR Scientific Assembly, Montreal, July, 2008

Co-director, School on “Turbulence and Waves in Space Plasmas,” International School of Space Science, L’Aguila, Italy, September, 2007

Chapman Conference Chair, American Geophysical Union, 2002-2006

co-editor, Magnetospheric ULF Waves: Synthesis and New Directions, AGU Monograph 169, 2006

Co-convener, Symposium on “Ionosphere-Magnetosphere Coupling and Auroral Particle Acceleration, 36th COSPAR Scientific Assembly; Beijing, China, July, 2006

Convener, Symposium on “Electrodynamics of Aurora,” 2005

IAGA Scientific Assembly, Toulouse, France, July, 2005

Convener, Symposium on “Nonlinear and Kinetic Physics of ULF and VLF Waves,” AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, 2005

Convener, Winckler Symposium: Fast time variations of auroral particle participation, Minneapolis, April, 2004

Director of Graduate Studies, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Minnesota, 1995-2001

Editor, Symposium on “Alfvénic Structures: From the Sun to the Magnetosphere,” Advances in Space Research, 2001

Panel on Magnetosphere-Ionosphere-Atmosphere, 2001

Scientific & Professional Societies

  • National Academy of Sciences (NAS)
  • Fellow, American Geophysical Union


Bob Lysak has been a faculty member at the University of Minnesota’s School of Physics and Astronomy since 1982 and has been a member of the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics since its inception. Before coming to Minnesota, he received a Ph.D. in physics in 1980 at the University of California, Berkeley, under the supervision of Forrest Mozer and Mary Hudson. He did post-doctoral research at Berkeley and in Munich, Germany. He has specialized in the theory and modeling of auroral acceleration processes during all of that time and is recognized internationally as an expert in this field.

Bob has been honored by being named a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and of the American Physics Society, and was awarded the Hannes Alfvén Medal of the European Geosciences Union in 2015. He has also served as the editor of the Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, a major scientific journal.

Research Interests

My research emphasizes a fundamental theoretical understanding of the dynamics of plasmas in the Earth's magnetosphere, as well as in other planetary magnetospheres, the solar wind, and other astrophysical environments. I am particularly interested in the dynamics of the Earth's auroral regions. In these regions, strong currents flow along the magnetic field ("field-aligned currents") that are dissipated in the ionosphere and by accelerating the particles that produce the aurora. Changes in these current systems are mediated by waves called Alfven waves, which correspond to transverse fluctuations of the geomagnetic field. Although Alfven waves were first studied using magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) theory, I have approached them using a more complete kinetic theory; thus, these waves are sometimes called kinetic Alfven waves. Such waves can directly accelerate electrons into the ionosphere to produce the aurora. In addition, we are studying the ways in which these waves can evolve into quasi-static parallel electric fields that are known to be associated with discrete auroral arcs. These studies lead to an overall understanding of ultra-low-frequency (ULF) waves in the magnetosphere, especially the eigenmodes that can form due to the inhomogeneous nature of the magnetospheric plasma. Parallel electric fields are also necessary for the process called magnetic reconnection, which refers to the reorganization of the magnetic topology in thin current sheets. We study the dynamics of these processes as well. ULF waves are also important in Jupiter's magnetosphere, where they are driven by the motion of Jupiter's moon Io. Alfven waves may also be responsible for processes in the solar corona, such as solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and the heating of the corona to millions of degrees.

This work also benefits from collaboration with Senior Researcher Dr. Yan Song. Her work emphasizes the fundamental theory of particle acceleration and magnetic reconnection, emphasizing a dynamical approach that improves upon the quasi-steady descriptions often used to discuss these phenomena.

Selected Publications

Full list of publications in CV form:

Lysak, R. L., and Y. Song (2011), Development of parallel electric fields at the plasma sheet boundary layer, J. Geophys. Res., 116, A00K14, doi:10.1029/2010JA016424.

Woodroffe, J. R., and R. L. Lysak (2012), Ultra-low frequency wave coupling in the ionospheric Alfvén resonator: Characteristics and implications for the interpretation of ground magnetic fields, J. Geophys. Res., 117, A03223, doi:10.1029/2011JA017057.

Lysak, R. L., C. L. Waters, and M. D. Sciffer (2013), Modeling of the ionospheric Alfvén resonator in dipolar geometry, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 118, doi: 10.1002/jgra.50090.

Lysak, R. L., Y. Song, M. D. Sciffer, and C. L. Waters (2015), Propagation of Pi2 pulsations in a dipole model of the magnetosphere, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 120, doi:10.1002/2014JA020625.

Obana, Y., C. L. Waters, M. D. Sciffer, F. W. Menk, R. L. Lysak, K. Shiokawa, A. W. Hurst, and T. Petersen (2015), Resonance structure and mode transition of quarter-wave ULF pulsations around the dawn terminator, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 120, 4194, doi:10.1002/2015JA021096.

Takahashi, K., R. L. Lysak, M. Vellante, C. A. Kletzing, M. D. Hartinger, and C. W. Smith (2018), Observation and numerical simulation of cavity mode oscillations excited by an interplanetary shock, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 123, 1969, doi: 10.1002/2017JA024639.

Lysak, R. L., Song, Y., Waters, C. L., Sciffer, M. D., & Obana, Y. (2020). Numerical investigations of interhemispheric asymmetry due to ionospheric conductance. Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 125, e2020JA027866.

Lysak, R., Echim, M., Karlsson, T., Marghitu, O., Rankin, R., Song, Y., and Watanabe, T.-H.(2020).  Quiet, discrete auroral arcs: Acceleration mechanisms, Space Sci. Revs., 216, 92,

Lysak, R. L., & Song, Y. (2020). Field line resonances in Jupiter's magnetosphere. Geophysical Research Letters, 47, e2020GL089473.

Moirano, A., A. Mura, A. Adriani, V. Dols, B. Bonfond, J. H. Waite Jr,V. Hue, J. R. Szalay, A. H. Sulaiman, B. M. Dinelli, F. Tosi, F. Altieri,A. Cicchetti, G. Filacchione, D. Grassi, A. Migliorini, M. Moriconi, R.Noschese, G. Piccioni, R. Sordini, D. Turrini, C. Plainaki, G. Sindoni, S.Massetti, R. L. Lysak, S. L. Ivanovski, S. J. Bolton (2021). Morphology of the Auroral Tail of Io, Europa and Ganymede from JIRAM L-band imager, Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 126, e2021JA029450. 10.1029/2021JA029450