Each year, ham radio enthusiasts from around the globe make the trek to Ohio’s Greene County Fairgrounds and Expo Center, where they gather in mass for one of amateur radio’s largest awards and technology conventions — Dayton Hamvention®. This year, the name of NJIT Professor of Physics Nathaniel Frissell will be heard loud and clear throughout the amateur radio world, as Frissell was recently announced winner of the “2019 Hamvention® Amateur of the Year.”

With the announcement, Frissell becomes one of the youngest-ever “hams” to take the Amateur of the Year award, which has been considered among the top individual honors in amateur radio since the Dayton Hamvention® awards began in 1955.  

Hamvention® Spokesperson, Michael Kalter, announced the winners to internet streamers worldwide on Facebook Live, straight from the DX Engineering Showroom inside the Summit Racing Equipment superstore in Tallmadge, Ohio.

“Congratulations to Nathaniel,” said Kalter. “He is pushing the science of amateur radio a lot farther along…and like many other Amateurs of the Year, he is just getting started.”

Frissell — whose work at NJIT’s Center for Solar-Terrestrial Research combines radio communications and space weather research — will collect his award at the three-day 2019 Dayton Hamvention® event this coming May for his “ham radio contributions and dedication to service, professionalism and advancement of the avocation of amateur radio.” 

“It is a great honor to receive this award, and I am very grateful for it,” said Frissell. “I think it not only recognizes my work, but also the work of all of amateurs who have contributed to science over the years.” 

“Amateur radio is a hobby for radio enthusiasts of all kinds, from builders to experimenters to communicators,” added Frissell. “People come to this hobby and the Hamvention to pursue this passion…I think my work has really provided an avenue for hams to dive deeply into how their hobby works, and in the process, actually be able to push the state of science forward.” 

Frissell, also known by his radio contact alias, W2NAF, started his journey into ham radio in 1995 on a scouting trip as a middle school student at St. Thomas the Apostle School in Bloomfield, NJ. Today, he is perhaps best recognized by amateur radio enthusiasts and research colleagues for his leading role in the 2017 Solar Eclipse QSO Party (SEQP), which brought together an international team of scientists to investigate ionospheric disturbances during the "The Great American Eclipse" of August 21, 2017 through study of radio signals.

Since then, Frissell has continued to co-advise NJIT’s amateur radio club, K2MFF, as well as the Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI), a collective of professional researchers and amateur radio enthusiasts that has received National Science Foundation support and that explores new radio technology and space weather phenomena — ranging from traveling ionospheric disturbances to solar flares and polar vortexes.

“Looking back, I think the most exciting part of this work is seeing how we can get people from around the world to work together and actually do science,” said Frissell. “[Our group] really is a collaborative effort between the professionals and the amateurs, and both have significant ideas and resources to share.”

The next major space weather event for Frissell and HamSCI to prepare for? The 2024 total solar eclipse. 

“I’m really looking forward to seeing how this group will develop and what will be accomplished on the way to the 2024 eclipse,” said Frissell. “To get ready for it, we are working on developing a new network of instruments known as ‘Personal Space Weather Stations’.  This alone will be a significant development that will help us contribute scientifically even before the eclipse arrives.”