Ryan Dewey hails from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains – Colorado Springs, to be specific. He was born and raised in the Centennial State, and has spent most of his life there. He attended the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he did a double major in Astronomy and Physics. Before coming to Michigan, the only other time Ryan had “been more than a stone’s throw from mountains was when I studied abroad in Uppsala, Sweden for six months.”
Ryan’s interest in science was more of a gradual arc of discovery rather than a “eureka” moment. “I never had a defining moment when I realized I loved science (especially space). In primary school, I always liked the math and science classes and assignments, even so far as to join the Math Counts and Science Olympiad teams in middle/high school.”
But that began to change when he took several courses in middle school taught by a former NASA employee. The classes focused on aerospace and astronautics, with a bit of astronomy thrown in for good measure. This was a turning point for Ryan. “I loved the classes so much that in high school I made an effort to take as many physics classes as I could.”
He also credits a slightly different environment for further helping to cement his interest. After his senior year in high school, he worked at a local Boy Scout summer camp. “I was put in charge of teaching the astronomy merit badge. I had so much fun teaching scouts the basics of our solar system (and stargazing with the scouts!) that I knew I wanted to major in astronomy & physics at CU.”
As an undergrad, he was fortunate to work alongside Professor Daniel Baker in CU’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) on his Mercury/MESSENGER research. While there, he was introduced to two other members of the MESSENGER science team – CLaSP Professors Jim Slavin and Jim Raines. After some discussion, Ryan found himself drawn to the CLaSP department and the chance to work with the “strong concentration of space physics professors.” And that was that.
Ryan describes his own research as “a combination of space physics, magnetospheric physics, and comparative planetology.” When asked to elaborate, he says, “I always loved the stars, but they seem too disconnected to research – I wanted something close, something I could look at myself. On the other hand, researching the Earth seemed too close. With the Earth feeling too claustrophobic and stars too distant, the compromise was studying other planets in the solar system, particularly their magnetic fields.” As Ryan recently advanced to Ph.D candidacy status, it would seem he’s found his research sweet spot.
Ryan is also enthusiastic cook, and said he was also drawn to the food culture of Ann Arbor when weighing his decision to come to Ann Arbor. “I’m still developing my culinary skills & taste, but I’m a big fan of cooking (and eating). I’m helping with a community garden this year, and I’m excited for the first tomatoes & eggplants.”
When asked what his favorite CLaSP experience has been so far, he recalls a conference he attended last January in Rovaniemi, Finland. “My advisors, a senior grad student, and a postdoc from my lab spent a week in the bitter cold north of Finland. One night in the middle of the conference, the organizers took all attendees to a nearby reindeer farm, where we got to meet some reindeer, eat & drink by a fire, and take reindeer-pulled sleigh rides. That night the magnetosphere did not disappoint — the sky danced the aurora, while we below froze in the -40 C (= -40 F) weather!”
“The aurora was beautifully breathtaking, especially since it connected everything I’ve learned and researched in the field to something I could see myself.”