Dr. R.T. James McAteer

Profile picture of James McAteer



Dr McAteer is a Professor of Astronomy at NMSU.

Professor McAteer’s research covers the entire breadth of solar physics: from his PhD work on the dynamics of the quiet Sun; to studying active region magnetic fields and solar flares; and including the initiation and propagation of coronal mass ejections (CMEs). He uses spectroscopy, imaging, and detailed modeling to analyze data across a vast array of temporal, size and energy scales. His current research interests can be divided into three broad areas:

(1) Fundamental solar physics, including observational evidence for magnetohydrodynamical (MHD) processes including waves and magnetic reconnection. Studies of the chromosphere and corona of the Sun and other stars, and inferring plasma properties. Studies of radio emission from the Sun. Studies of Differential Emission Measures in the corona.

(2) Advancement of solar physics research through the design of high-cadence imaging and high-resolution spectroscopy instruments.  Design of new high performance computing and advanced signal processing techniques in
interpretation of existing and expected data (from both ground- and space-based instrumentation. Reinvent and reinvigorate the Dunn Solar Telescope. Membership of telescope scientific observing committees and oversight committees.

(3) The Sun-Earth connection, including the effects of space weather throughout the solar system, predicting the onset of solar flares, tracking coronal mass ejections, and modelling the solar wind.  This includes studies of the magnetic complexity of active regions and searches for signatures of imminent solar flares, general studies of complexity and turbulence in science, and design of risk management performance measures for space weather predictions.  This also includes studies of the solar cycle, and the effects on the Earth and the viability of life.


At graduate level Professor McAteer leads a Heliophysics course (ASTR670) at NMSU and is involved in the Hale Graduate online course. At undergraduate level, you wlll find Professor McAteer teaching courses on The Planets (ASTR105G) and Revolutionary Ideas in Astrophsyics (ASTR301V ). These courses focus on modern discoveries in our solar system and beyond. They are taught using inquiry-based learning, team-based learning, and extensive use of interactive technology.


Dr McAteer is a Professor of Astronomy, and the inaugural Senior Associate Provost at NMSU. 

Prior to this Dr McAteer, as an associate professor, was the chair of the Department of Astronomy, with financial oversight over Apache Point Observatory and SDSS, and was the director of Sunspot Solar Observatory, with oversight over science management, strategic planning, community engagement, and fund raising. In 2020 he was a member of the Astro2020 decadal survey panel on the Sun, Stars, and Stellar Populations. As an assistant professor Dr McAteer was a NSF Career award recipient, member of two NASA Heliophysics missions, and a National Academies Future Leader in Space Physics.


  • 2022-present, Inaugural Senior Associate Provost, NMSU
  • 2022,             NMSU Truly Innovative Teaching Award for excellence in teaching
  • 2022-present, Professor (tenured), NMSU Department of Astronomy
  • 2021-2022,    Department Chair, NMSU Department of Astronomy
  • 2020-present, Commissioner of Space History, Office of the Governor of New Mexico
  • 2020-present, Vice President, International Astronomical Union, E2
  • 2020-present, Member, COSMO Steering Committee, High Altitude Observatory
  • 2019-2021,    Member, Astro2020 Decadal Survey, Panel on the Sun, Stars, and Stellar Populations, National Academies
  • 2018-2021,    Member, National Solar Observatory Data Policy Advisory Committee
  • 2017-2021,    Chair of Users Committee, National Solar Observatory
  • 2016-2021,    Director, Sunspot Solar Observatory
  • 2016,             NMSU Research Career Award for excellence in research
  • 2016-2021,    Associate Professor (tenured), NMSU
  • 2014,             Future Leader recipient, National Academies of Science - Chinese Academy of Sciences Forum for New Leaders in Space Science
  • 2014-present, Member Representative, Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), member of AURA Advisory Committee on Communication and Engagemenr, vice-chair of AURA Science Advisory Committee
  • 2014-2022,     Member of Users Committee, National Solar Observatory
  • 2013,              NMSU Globalization Award for excellence in service
  • 2013-present,  NSF Career Award, NSF
  • 2012,              NASA Heliophysics Explorer combined chairs
  • 2010-2015,     Assistant Professor (tenure track), NMSU
  • 2008-2010,     ERC Marie Curie Fellow, Trinity College Dublin
  • 2007,              NASA Achievement award for STEREO
  • 2006-2008,     NASA STEREO Scientist, NASA / GSFC
  • 2004-2006,     NASA National Research Council Fellow, NASA / GSFC
  • 2000-2004,     PhD, Queen’s University Belfast
  • 1996-2004,     Masters in Physics with Astrophysics, Queen’s University Belfast

Current graduate students

  • Kevin Brooks, on differential rotation across the solar cycle
  • Khagendra Katuwal, on coronal hole formation, expansion, and evolution
  • Laurel Farris on coronal seismology. This project is funded by an NSF Career award.

Recent Postgraduate Researcher

  • Dr Shuo Wang, 2016-2021 performed inversions of He I 10830 observations of solar filaments
  • Dr Chunming Zhu, 2014-2016 studied filament eruptions and studying filament-filament interactions.
  • Dr Greg Taylor, 2013-2014 in studying Rayleigh Taylor instabilities in filaments.
  • Dr. Alexandra Andic, 2012-2012, worked on studies of quiet Sun dynamics and active region flux emergence
  • Dr. Vigeesh Gangadharan, 2011-2013 worked on MHD simulations of waves in the lower solar atmosphere

Recent graduates

  • Dr Sean Sellers on solar flare dynamics. This project was in collaboration with Rice University and ws funded by a NASA ROSES grant. Dr Sellers is now a data science at Sunspot Solar Observatory
  • Dr Sarah Kovac on the impact of the solar wind on planetary stripping. This was funded by two grants from AFRL. Dr Kovac is now a staff scientist at the SouthWest Research Institute in Boulder.
  • Dr Gordon Macdonal, on coronal models, solar winds, and coronal mass ejections. This was a collaborative study with scientists at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Kirtland Air Force Base with the
    aim of refining and improving data drivers for the WSA and ADAPT models. This project was funded by a NASA NEESF fellowship and funding from an NSF Career award. Dr Macdonald is now a data scientist at Apache Point Observatory
  • Dr Sam Schonfeld on solar radio emission F10.7 line across the solar cycle. This was a collaborative study with scientists at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Kirtland Air Force Base with the aim of combining  data from the Very Large Array and the Solar Dynamics Observatory. This project was funded by a AFOSR reseach award and funding from an NSF Career award. Dr Schonfeld is now a scientist at AFRL
  • Dr Greg Taylor, PhD, 2013. “An Adaptive Optics system for Solar Physics”, a joint instrumentation program with the National Solar Observatory. Dr Taylor is now a staff scientist as the Large Binocular Observatory
  • Dr Michael Kirk, PhD, 2012, “Solar Flare Brightenings", a joint project with the National Solar Observatory and AFRL. Dr Kirk is now a scientist at NASA GSFC.

Prior to NMSU.

  • Dr Eoin Carley, PhD, 2012 Radio Shocks and CMES, currently a postdoctoral fellow in Paris
  • Dr Jason Bryne, 2012, CMEs in 3D, currently a a researcher at RAL, England
  • Dr David Long, 2012, Globally Propagating Coronal Bright Fronts, currently a researcher at MSSL, London
  • Dr Paul Higgins, 2012, Active Region Identification and Extraction, currently a researcher at Lockheed Martin, CA
  • Dr Shane Maloney, 2012, Coronal Mass Ejections and the Solar Wind, currently working in industrial research in Dublin
  • Dr Paul Conlon, PhD, 2011, Active Regions Complexity, currently working in modelling financial markets
  • Dr Claire Raftery, PhD, 2011, Solar Flares and CMEs, currently a researcher at Berkeley
  • Dr David Jess, 2008, currently a lecturer at Queen’s Belfast
  • Dr Shaun Bloomfield, 2006, currently a postdoctoral researcher at Trinity College Dublin

Recent Undergraduate Researcher students

  • Tony Anthichos, Solar Filaments, currently in Masters program at NMSU.
  • Brandon Calabro, Coronal Seismology, currently in graduate school at UT San Antonio
  • Fernando Delgado, Active Region Evolution, currently in graduate school at Montana State University
  • Cedric Ramesh, Chromopsheric Bright Points, currently in graduate school at University of Alabama

Research publications:

A full and up-to-date publication list can be obtained via NASA ADS