John Craven, PhD

John Craven

Title: Professor Emeritus, Dean Emeritus
Company: University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska, United States

John Craven, PhD, Professor Emeritus and Dean Emeritus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has been recognized by Marquis Who’s Who Top Educators for dedication, achievements, and leadership in physics.

With more than 50 years of professional experience, Dr. Craven has been recognized as emeritus professor of physics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks since 2009. Prior to his retirement, he served as a professor of physics from 1991 to 2009, department chair from 2003 to 2009, Faculty Senate president in 1997-1998, and participated in numerous university governance and NASA research committees. Upon retirement, Dr. Craven acted as associate dean of the College of Natural Sciences at UAF for three years and continues a program of research. Earlier in his career, he worked at the University of Iowa, holding the positions of assistant research scientist from 1969 to 1975, associate research scientist from 1975 to 1982, and full research scientist from 1982 to 1991. Throughout his career, he has contributed to more than 350 published works and collaborations at scientific conferences.

Dr. Craven was inspired to pursue a career in the field while in high school, when he took a course in physics and was immediately enraptured. He followed through with this fascination of physics by enrolling as a student at the University of Iowa, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in 1963 and a Master of Sciences in 1964. Under the tutelage of his mentors, Prof. James Van Allen and Prof. Lou Frank, he continued his studies, earning a PhD at the school in 1969. While matriculating at the university, he conducted research in Prof. Van Allen’s labs, under what Dr. Craven refers to “the barnstorming days of space physics.” Together with Prof. Van Allen, and his then student Prof. Frank, the physics department designed and constructed a variety of early satellites for the United States at a rapid pace. These satellites aided in the study of geomagnetically trapped radiation, now known as Van Allen radiation, concerning the Earth and nearby geophysical areas. During his undergraduate years, Dr. Craven first began working with the respected Goddard Flight Center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the US launch complex in Florida.

This barnstorming form of scientific research continued on with the development of low-energy plasma instruments that aided in defining Earth’s magnetosphere, which then made the leap to auroral imaging from high altitudes (up to 23,200 km) to obtain the time-lapsed images of the aurora borealis and aurora australis at visible and ultraviolet lengths. Throughout his career, Dr. Craven has been renowned for his achievements, having photographed the Earth from space after with the Dynamics Explorer mission. This lead to the development of the three auroral images and the analysis of its data. In addition, he has helped to design, build and calibrate instruments for spacecraft since he was an undergraduate, continuing this work after relocating to Alaska. While working on these projects, he was able to add a sounding rocket instrument, as well as participated in two multi-rocket missions to study the Earth’s atmospheric winds, at UAF’s own rocket range. His work has touched more than 20 satellite and sounding rocket missions. Dr. Craven continues his work on that data even in his retirement. He helped build plasma instruments which took some of the first photographs of the aurora borealis from space.

In his retirement, Dr. Craven enjoys gardening, genealogy, reading and studying presidential biographies. His passion for his life’s work continues with research contributions to the UAF’s Geophysical Institute.


For more:

Press Release

Contact Dr. Craven



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