Professor Patricia H. Reiff is a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and was the founding Director of the Rice Space Institute at Rice University. Her research focuses on space plasma physics, mostly in the area of magnetospheric physics: "space weather". Her research includes study of the aurora borealis, magnetic reconnection, solar wind-magnetosphere coupling (including solar wind control of magnetospheric and ionospheric convection), and magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling. She 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 (launched March, 2000), Jim Burch, SWRI, P.I., and was the first to propose radio sounding of the magnetosphere, which that spacecraft included as a key instrument. She was a Co-Investigator on the "Peace" plasma instrument on the ESA "Cluster 2" 4-spacecraft suite which were launched in July and August 2000. She is a Co-Investigator for science and E/PO (Education and Public Outreach) on the "Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission" which launched in March 12, 2015. She is instrumental in bringing real-time space weather forecasts and "Space Weather" information to the public. Her "Space Weather" software, which can be found in many fine museums, can be downloaded free from MMS.rice.edu. She is a partner in the "Heliospheric Education Consortium" from NASA, and is developing "iClips", immersive educational clips for use in planetarium domes. She is working on a show on magnetism and will create a clip for the 2017 solar eclipse.
She is the director for a major project which has developed an off-ramp for the information highway by "Creating the Public Connection" , bringing real-time earth and space science data to museums and schools (originally sponsored by NASA's Digital Library Technology Program). Over ten million people have interacted with her exhibits and planetarium shows at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and other museums, and another five million with her web sites. Over 300,000 of her educational CD and DVD-Roms and planetarium videos have been distributed through her spinoff company spaceupdate.com. She has also been a leader in public education activities, including being director for four years for teacher education projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Eisenhower Foundation, in collaboration with Dr. Carolyn Sumners of the Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS). Their latest collaboration is the creation and marketing of "Discovery Domes", portable digital theaters to teach earth and space science, with over 260 installations in 33 countries and 34 states, through her distribution company ePlanetarium. She has guided many scientific tours, including total solar eclipse trips to Canada in 1979, Louisiana (annular), Mexico in 1991, Peru in 1994, the Caribbean in 1998, the Black Sea in 1999, Madagascar in 2001, Libya in 2006, China in 2008 and 2009, Tahiti in 2010, annular in May 2012, Australia in November 2012, transatlantic in November 2013, and an Indonesian trip in 2016. =
She is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union , where she serves on the SPA Public Education Committee. In 2009, she received the AGU "Athelstan Spilhaus Award" and in 2013 she won the "SPARC" Award (Space Physics and Astronomy Richard Carrington Award) for service in public education. She is the Rice University representative and former Chair of the Council of Institutions of the USRA - the Universities Space Research Association. She has served on advisory committees for NASA, NSF, NCAR, Los Alamos National Laboratory, NAS/NRC and AAU.She tweets at "@discoverydome" and "@PatReiff"and has an outreach Facebook persona "Discovery Dome".
Her MMS Mascot "Trigger" has his own web page, his own "Trigger MMS" Facebook page, and twitter feed "@TriggerMMS"
The Reiff/Hill clan is an "all Rice" family with 8 Rice degrees among the crew (Tom has 3, Pat has 2 and the kids each have one).
Her better (or at least less disorganized) half is emeritus Professor Prof. Thomas W. Hill (BA '67, MS '71, PhD '73).
Our three children, Andrea (Palermo), Adam, and Amelia (Mel) Hill, are all Rice alumni.
Andrea (Psychology, 2008) began working at ePlanetarium and taught at Black Middle School.
Her husband Zaniel Palermo works for Space Services, Inc., a Houston space company.
She is now a stay at home mom with their first child ("no disposable diapers, no formula,
and no processed baby food".
Mel (BA 2009), the artist, has their own "rowdyferret"
freelance art and web design company, having previously taught art and web design at Chavez High School
(Houston) and has written and illustrated a book on Gender "the Gender book"
which recently received an "IPPY" award for her web design.
Adam, who graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree in 2009, is working as in Engineer for the State of Florida, having previously taught math and science at YES Prep school Houston. He is married to Kate, who is a grads student in Marine biology at Florida Tech. Adam working on his MBA, also at Florida Tech.
Want more information? Jump to:
Official Physics and Astronomy page, with publications, presentations, etc.
Rice Space Institute home page
Software and show sales site
Portable planetarium company
Pdf of her mother's book on Breastfeeding "Bottles or Bust" (updated 2016)
"Is Science the Salvation of Society?" (address to National Honor Society meeting, Houston, November 9, 1997)
Questions and Answers from that talk
"Three Heavens - Our Home" Essay (a chapter in the book "Professors Who Believe" published by IVP - ISBN 0-8308-1599-6)
Christmas Card 1996 (family photos, etc. - warning- it's big!)
Christmas Card 1995
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Last Update: August, 2015