The Alexander Chizhevsky Medal 2014

Doctor Christina Plainaki

Christina started to model cosmic ray propagation through the Earth’s magnetosphere and atmosphere as a post-graduate student in the field of space plasma physics and cosmic rays at the University of Athens. This was a preparatory work for her PhD. She immediately showed uncommon skills and maturity in her research, handling compound problems, being rigorous in her analysis, and developing solutions. Her model, first published in the Journal of Geophysical Research in 2007, constitutes a reference in understanding the development of ground level enhancements following extreme solar events. Following her PhD thesis defence in July 2007, Dr. Plainaki moved to INAF-IFSI (which later became INAF IAPS), Italy, joining the SERENA experiment team.

Christina got involved both in the experimental issues and the underlying physics. This concerns in particular the interaction between energetic ions and neutral atoms, either of exospheric origin such as at Mercury, or directly from a planetary body surface via the sputtering mechanism such as at near-Earth objects. In this new field Christina again was able to demonstrate uncommo dedication and outstanding skills. Recently Christina extended her scientific interests to cover also another topic of planetary space weather: the effects of radiation and energetic plasma bombardment on planetary and moon icy surfaces, where phenomena such as radiolysis and photolysis dominate. This is of paramount importance in understanding the formation of tenuous atmospheres around the icy moons of giant planets, such as the Europa and Ganymede exospheres.

Her model of the Europa oxygen exosphere, published in Planetary and Space Science, is now a reference and she was invited to present it at the 2013 Magnetospheres of Outer Planets International Conference. This year Christina took the leadership in proposing to International Space Science Institute an international team to work on preparing a global unified model of Europa's exosphere, in view of the upcoming JUICE mission. Christina’s proposal to ISSI was successfully selected, within the context of a severe competition, which is another recognition of her excellence in the field and her international fame, in spite of her young age.

In recognition of Christina’s outstanding work on cosmic ray physics, magnetospheric physics, and planetary space weather, she was awarded this year the EGU Planetary and Solar System Sciences Division Outstanding Young Scientists Award. This prestigious European Geosciences Union award is given annually to one outstanding young scientist, highlighting his/her exceptional scientific achievements in planetary sciences. Despite her young age, the excellence of her scientific achievements is internationally recognized and documented through a series of important publications in peer review journals : 33 refereed publications, 12 as a first author) and a significant number of invited