Professor Lou-Chuang Lee was born on April 20, 1947. He received a B.S. degree in physics from National Taiwan University in 1969, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1972 and 1975, respectively. He specializes in space science and plasma physics. From 1975 to 1995, he performed advanced research at the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center and served as a professor at the University of Maryland and University of Alaska. Upon returning to Taiwan in 1995, Prof. Lee joined the faculty of Department of Physics at the National Cheng Kung University, and also served as the Dean of the College of Science. He was appointed the chief scientist at National Space Program Office in 1997, and made director of National Space Program Office in 2001. Since that time he has led the science and engineering teams implementing the FORMOSAT-2 and FORMOSAT-3 programs. He became the first President of the National Applied Research Laboratories in 2003 and the President of National Central University in 2006. In 2008, he was appointed as the Minister of National Science Council. He was a distinguished research fellow of Institute of Earth Sciences, Academia Sinica from 2012 to 2017. He is currently a Distinguished Visiting Chair of Academia Sinica.
Prof. Lee is a well-known space physicist. He has published more than 300 scientific papers as well as three academic monographs. During his career, Prof. Lee developed several new theories to explain observed space phenomena. His major research achievements include: (a) the turbulence spectrum of interstellar medium, (b) the cyclotron maser theory for the generation of auroral kilometric radiation, (c) the multiple X-line reconnection model for magnetic flux transfer events, (d) the formation mechanism of solar prominences, (e) a new mechanism for solar coronal heating, and (f) the discovery of "gigantic jets" in the Earth's upper atmosphere.
Prof. Lee has received many international as well as national awards, including the Toray Science Foundation Fellow, the Terris Moore Award in space physics, the Outstanding Faculty Performance Award, the Fullbright Scholar Award, the Emil Usibelli Distinguished Research Award, the Foundation for the Advancement of Outstanding Scholarship Award, the Ministry of Education's Outstanding Academic Award, the Presidential Science Prize (The highest honor in science in Taiwan), Subramanyan Chandrasekhar Prize of Plasma Physics(AAPPS, 2017), Academician of Academia Sinica, elected member of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), elected member of International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), elected member of International Academy of Engineering, Russian Academy of Engineering (IAE), and elected foreign member of the US National Academy of Engineering (NAE), 2018.
(1) Collisionless magnetic reconnection: Prof. Lee is responsible for the single greatest leap in the theory of collisionless magnetic reconnection (MR), a ubiquitous physical process in nature that underlies much of the space physics discipline spanning the sun to Earth’s ionosphere, and is an essential process in astrophysical plasmas. It was widely recognized that the occurrence of MR in highly conducting/collisionless space plasmas requires an effective “anomalous” resistivity. Determining the mechanism to create that resistivity was the single most challenging task facing the space science community until solved by Prof. Lee. Prof. Lee identified the off-diagonal terms of electron pressure tensor as the missing link to realize collisionless reconnection. Prof. James Dungey, who changed the course of space research with the suggestion that magnetic reconnection is a fundamental process for magnetospheric phenomena, was so excited in his work that he wrote a personal letter to Prof. Lee in 1995, stating “I think your paper marks the breakthrough”. Now, all numerical simulations on MR routinely calculate the electron pressure tensor for the effective resistivity.
(2) Theory of auroral kilometric radiation: In 1979, Prof. Lee solved one of the early outstanding science problems of the “space age”: that of “auroral kilometric radiation” (AKR). AKR is an intense emission discovered in 1974 from spacecraft. Prof. Lee’s deep physical insight led to the solution by invoking a novel form of non-thermal emission, that of a cyclotron maser amplification process, requiring relativistic Doppler resonance treatment (Astrophysical Journal, 230, 621, 1979). Prof. Lee’s work has become the “Standard Model” to explain the observed radio emissions from planets, the sun and ultracool dwarf stars.
(3) Formation of solar prominences: Prof. Lee is the first scientist to successfully explain solar prominences (Solar Physics, 138, 291, 1992). Prof. Lee’s successful theory showed that prominence mass is supplied by siphon-type flows induced by thermal instability. The original formation of the prominence is caused by footprint shear within a magnetic arcade in the solar chromosphere. The predictions of Prof. Lee’s theory: the formation of a prominence cavity and certain dynamic features, are well demonstrated. Professor Eugene Parker stated in a personal letter to Prof. Lee that Prof. Lee’s “study (dynamic formations of solar prominence) is a big step forward from the usual static models”.
(4) Theory of magnetic flux transfer events: Flux transfer events (FTEs) were among the most important discoveries made by the ISEE-I and ISEE-II spacecraft. The identification of magnetic flux transfer events has provided the first experimental evidence for the presence of intermittent magnetic reconnection at the dayside magnetopause. The basic signatures for FTEs are a bipolar variation of the magnetic field component normal to the magnetopause current layer and the mixture of magnetospheric and magnetosheath particle populations. In l985, Prof. Lee proposed a mechanism for the formation of FTEs in terms of a multiple X line reconnection (MXR) process, which leads to the formation of magnetic flux ropes. Prof. Lee's MXR model has been well tested by observations and simulations and recognized as the dominant reconnection process at the dayside magnetopause.
(5) Discovery of “gigantic jets” in the atmosphere: In 2003, Dr. Lee led a scientific team that discovered “gigantic jets” in the atmosphere (Nature, June 26, 2003). The observed gigantic jets establish a direct optical and electric link between a thundercloud (altitude ~ 16 km) and the ionosphere at a 90 km altitude confirming the prediction by C. T. R. Wilson (Nobel Laureat) in 1925.
(6) Theory of strong scintillations, interstellar turbulence spectrum and multiple scattering of coda waves: Prof. Lee achieved a significant breakthrough in the theory of strong scattering of pulsar radio waves by interstellar turbulent plasmas in 1975. Such scattering produces a wide variety of observed astrophysical phenomena such as intensity scintillations, angular broadening and pulse smearing. The significance of this work is that Prof. Lee developed a theoretical approach to strong scattering that is non-perturbative. The approach itself is so powerful, it has been applied to completely different geophysical sub-fields. For example, Prof. Lee’s multiple scattering theory has also been applied to seismic coda waves, in collaboration with Professor Keiiti Aki (Bull. Seim. Soc. Am., 73, 377, 1983).