Drew Lawson Turner

The Aerospace Corporation

2018 James B. Macelwane Medal Winner

Steven J. Davis, Walter Immerzeel, Isaac Santos, Drew Turner, and Caroline C. Ummenhofer were awarded the 2018 James B. Macelwane Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony on 12 December 2018 in Washington, D. C. The medal is for “significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by an outstanding early career scientist.”


Drew Turner is widely recognized for his outstanding contributions to understanding energetic charged particles in the Earth’s magnetosphere. Changes in energetic particle populations illuminate how energy from the Sun couples to our local space environment. Drew’s work revealed how those processes work in systems from the Van Allen radiation belts to the boundaries of the magnetosphere and solar wind.

Drew Turner began his work at the University of Colorado under the supervision of Xinlin Li. Among many excellent students, Drew stood out for his enthusiastic questions, deep professional engagement, and creative problem solving. In those years, Drew started a string of important papers related to NASA’s Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) and Van Allen Probes satellite missions. In particular, Drew developed novel methods for disentangling complicated co-occurring processes that can either enhance or deplete the radiation belts. That work culminated in a 2012 Nature paper just 2 years after his Ph.D.

After the University of Colorado Drew moved to the University of California, Los Angeles, and, more recently, to the Aerospace Corporation. In his career, Drew has consistently come up with creative ways to answer some of the most important questions in our field—whether it is understanding the complicated balance of acceleration, transport, and loss processes in the radiation belts, understanding particle dynamics at the magnetopause and foreshock, or unraveling the complex processes that couple fast flows, dipolarization fronts, and energetic particle injections in storms and substorms.

Drew is able to synthesize information from different measurements, different instruments, and multiple satellite missions. One recent paper combined observations from dozens of instruments on 15 satellites making up five very different space missions. Drew also draws on his experience with spaceflight hardware to develop new data reduction and analysis routines that frequently become the basis for analysis done throughout the community. As a result, Drew’s papers are able to explore, simultaneously, the important processes that happen on local scales and the global context for those processes.

In the 8 years since his Ph.D. Drew has published over 110 papers, including 3 in Science, 4 in Nature, and 32 in Geophysical Research Letters. One factor leading to his remarkable publication record is that people seek out Drew’s insights and contributions. His body of work reflects his creativity and talent but also generosity with his ideas, his time, and his energy.

Drew Turner truly embodies values that AGU promotes and the qualities that the Macelwane Medal recognizes.

—Geoffrey D. Reeves, Los Alamos National Laboratory, N.M.


Let me put first things first: Geoff Reeves, Jacob Bortnik, Joe Fennell, and Xinlin Li, I can never thank you enough for your nomination and the ongoing tutelage and support you’ve offered to me throughout my career. I have learned so much from each of you, whether it be leadership skills and new physical perspectives from Geoff and Jacob, open-mindedness and spaceflight instrumentation from Joe, or good mentorship and the finer points of critical thinking and strategy from Xinlin. I owe much of my success in many ways to each of you, and I hope you each know how much that is appreciated.

Next, I would like to thank AGU and the Macelwane Medal Committee for this incredible honor. I will do my very best to live up to this distinction and embody the commitment to excellence in research, career development, and education that James B. Macelwane represented.

My research relies heavily on data provided by various satellite missions, and I know well that it takes teams of hundreds or more to ensure the successful development, launch, and operations of each mission. I want to say a special thank you to the teams for NASA’s THEMIS, Van Allen Probes, and Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) missions for providing such high-quality and scientifically rich data to the world.

Professionally, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help, tutelage, and support of so many of my colleagues. It is impossible here to thank each personally, but I want several of you to know the especially positive impacts you’ve made on my life. Thank you, Drs. Angelopoulos, Azeem, Blake, O’Brien, Shprits, and Sivjee, for your mentorship. To Drs. Blum, Claudepierre, Cohen, Drozdov, Gabrielse, Gkioulidou, Hartinger, Hietala, Jaynes, Kellerman, Kiehas, Maget, Millan, Plaschke, Schiller, Tu, Ukhorskiy, Usanova, and Wilson, thank you so much not only for your professional advice and contributions to my research but also for your invaluable friendship.

With the few words I have left here, I must thank my family and friends for their unending and unconditional support. Mom, Dad, Shona, and my full extended family: thank you all so very much for your love and encouragement. Mom and Dad, I have pursued a career that makes me happy, just like you told us.

Finally, Krista, my love, partner, and best friend, thank you so much for the love, positivity, and kindness that you give me every day.

—Drew Turner, The Aerospace Corporation, El Segundo, Calif.