College of Fellows Distinguished Lecture Series Speaker

Dwyer Headshot

Joseph R. Dwyer
University of New Hampshire
United States of America
Primary Affiliation: Atmospheric and Space Electricity

Lightning is ubiquitous, striking our planet at least a billion times each year, sometimes hurting people and damaging property. Yet 269 years after Franklin’s famous kite experiment, there are still many basic questions about lightning that remain unanswered, including how it gets started inside thunderstorms, how it travels through air, and how it attaches to objects on the ground. Moreover, during the last few decades, a variety of new and strange high-energy phenomena have been discovered in and around thunderstorms.


Joseph Dwyer received his PhD in physics from the University of Chicago in 1994, working on cosmic-ray astrophysics. He worked as a research scientist at Columbia University and the University of Maryland before joining the faculty at the Florida Institute of Technology in 2000. Dwyer served as head of the Physics Department at Florida Tech before moving to the University of New Hampshire in 2014. He is currently a Professor and Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UNH as well as the Peter T. Paul Chair in Space Sciences in the Space Science Center, Institute for Earth, Oceans, and Space.  

Over the last 20 years, Joseph Dwyer has played a leading role in establishing and advancing the field of High Energy Atmospheric Physics, making important contributions to our understanding of lightning physics, terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) and the x-ray emissions from lightning. His work includes both the theory and observations of energetic radiation and radio frequency emissions from thunderstorms and lightning. He has also made contributions to understanding lightning initiation and propagation, long laboratory sparks in air, cosmic ray physics and space physics.  

Dwyer received the 2014 Karl Berger Award for distinguished achievements in the science and engineering of lightning research from the International Conference on Lightning Protection (ICLP). He became a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in 2019 and was chosen to give the AGU Franklin Lecture that year. His work in public outreach includes articles in Scientific American and appearances in numerous television documentaries and news articles.