Skip to main content

in this section

Michael Charles Kelley

  • Michael Charles Kelley
  • Dept: Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Title: James A. Friend Family Distinguished Professor of Engineering Emeritus
  • Address: 320 Frank H T Rhodes Hall
  • Phone: 607 255-7425
  • return to list


Professor M. C. Kelley attended Kent State University from 1961 to 1964, where he majored in mathematics and won the Bordon and Manchester awards as outstanding Freshman and Senior man, respectively. He attended Kent State on an athletic scholarship, played varsity basketball, and spent two summers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Professor Kelley did graduate work in the Physics Department of the University of California at Berkeley under Forrest Mozer, obtaining his Ph.D. degree in 1970. In subsequent years, he was a post-doctoral researcher at Berkeley and, for eight months, held a joint appointment as a Von Humboldt Fellow with Gerhard Haerendel at the Max-Planck-Institute in Garching, West Germany. In January 1975 he came to Cornell as an assistant professor, advancing to associate professor in 1978 and to professor in 1982. From 1/99-1/02, he was Associate Dean for Professional Development in the College of Engineering. In 1979, he both won the James B. Macelwane award from the American Geophysical Union and became an AGU Fellow. In 1980 IEEE honored Kelley as Outstanding Teacher of the Year in Electrical Engineering and in 1981, Tau Beta Pi and the Cornell Society of Engineers presented him with the Excellence in Teaching Award in Engineering. From Cornell University's College of Engineering, Kelley has won the 1987 Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching, the 1994 Dean's Prize for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching and Advising, and the 1997 Robert '55 and Vanne '57 Cowie Award for Excellence in Teaching. In 1998 Professor Kelley became a Weiss Presidential Fellow, the most prestigious award for teaching at Cornell University and, in 2001, was elected the James A. Friend Family Distinguished Professor of Engineering. In 2003 Kelley was also named the Outstanding Alumnus of the Year at Kent State Honors College.

Mike and his wife Pat have two sons--Scott and Brian, born in 1969 and 1970, respectively--and in 1986 adopted a daughter, Erica Lee.

Research Interests

Roughly one-half of my research effort involves using Large RADAR observatories-there are now EIGHT operating at various sites around the world-to measure wind and wave patterns from thirty to several hundred kilometers above the surface of the earth. The rest of my research involves the use of satellites and rockets to carry Cornell instrumentation directly into the space environment. The measurements are interpreted in terms of the physics of the atmosphere and ionosphere and both global and localized features of the earth's electric field, including thunder storms and the aurora. One of my goals was to merge my knowledge of rockets with the expertise of the Cornell radar community and mount an intensive study of the equatorial upper atmosphere. This goal was realized in March, 1983 when I led a National Aeronautics and Space Administration rocket campaign called 'Condor' that launched twenty-nine sounding rockets off the coast of Peru. Similar projects were carried out in Greenland in 1985 and 1987, in the South Pacific in 1990, and in Puerto Rico in 1992. Another project of this type took place in February 1998."

Professor Michael C. Kelley has been deeply involved in ac/dc electric field experiments in space since 1966. He has played an important role in supplying electronics and/or analyzing results for 70 rocket flights, 4 satellite missions, and numerous balloon flights. Since coming to Cornell in 1975, he has also performed experiments for neutral wind measurements using chemical tracers, for active experiments in space plasmas, and for radar and lidar scatter measurements of turbulence and dc electric fields.

He has published more than 325

Teaching Interests

Electomagnetics; Elementary Circuits and Calculus

Selected Publications

  • Kelley, Michael Charles, C. H. K. Williamson, M. N. Vlasov. 2013. "Double laminar and turbulent meteor trails observed in space and simulated in the laboratory." Journal of Geophysical Research 118 (6): 3622-3625.
  • Kelley, Michael Charles, M. N. Vlasov, D. L. Hysell. 2013. "The main types of electron energy distribution determined by model fitting to optical emissions during HF wave ionospheric modification experiments." Journal of Geophysical Research-Space Physics 118 (6): 3877-3890.
  • Dao, Eugene V., Charles Eugene Seyler, Michael Charles Kelley. 2013. "Three-dimensional modeling of the electromagnetic characteristics of equatorial plasma depletions." Journal of Geophysical Research 118: 3505-3514.
  • Dao, E., Michael Charles Kelley, R. F. Pfaff, P. A. Roddy. 2013. "Large-scale structures in the equatorial ionosphere and their connection to the generalized Rayleigh-Taylor instability." Journal of Geophysical Research-Space Physics 118: 1-5.
  • Kelley, Michael Charles, M. Garstang. 2013. "On the possible detection of lightning storms by elephants." Animals 3 (2): 349-355.

Selected Awards and Honors

  • Presented the Nicolet Lecture at the 2011 Fall AGU Meeting in San Francisco, CA (Association of Global Universities) 2011
  • Editor's Citation for Excellence in Refereeing (Journal of Geophysical Research - Space Physics) 2010
  • Editor's Citation for Excellence in Refereering (Geophysical Research Letters) 2008
  • Editor's Citation for Excellence in Refereering (Geophysical Research Letters) 2007
  • Outstanding Alumnus of the Year (Kent State Honors College) 2003


  • BS (Mathematics), Kent State University, 1964
  • Ph D (Physics), University of California- Berkeley, 1970