• Adjunct Professor, Biomedical Engineering
  • Distinguished Professor, Mathematics


Kenneth M. Golden is a Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Adjunct Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Utah. His research is driven by interests in sea ice, the climate system, composite materials, statistical physics, polar ecology and remote sensing. He has published papers in a wide range of journals in mathematics, science and engineering, been on eighteen polar expeditions to study sea ice, and given over 500 invited lectures on six continents, including three presentations in the U.S. Congress. Golden is an award winning teacher and research mentor to over 90 young investigators, from high school students and undergraduates in majors across science and engineering to mathematics graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. His work has been covered by media around the world, including profiles in Science, Scientific American, Physics Today, and a BBC series, with numerous interviews on radio, television, and the internet. Golden is a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, cited for “extraordinary interdisciplinary work on the mathematics of sea ice,” an Inaugural Fellow of the American Mathematical Society, and a Fellow of the Explorers Club, whose members have included Neil Armstrong, Sir Edmund Hillary, Robert Peary, and Jane Goodall.

Research Summary

Polar sea ice is a critical component of Earth’s climate system. As a material it exhibits complex composite structure over a wide range of length scales, from mm scale brine inclusions and cm scale crystalline structure, to the ice cover itself - a granular composite of m to km scale ice floes in a sea water host. A principal challenge in modeling sea ice and its role in climate is how to use information on smaller scale structure to find the effective or homogenized properties on larger scales relevant to coarse-grained climate models and process studies. That is, how do you predict macroscopic behavior from microscopic laws? Also of interest is the inverse problem of recovering parameters controlling small scale processes from large scale observations. Our research focuses on developing mathematical models of sea ice processes that are important to understanding the role of sea ice in the climate system and as a critical habitat in the polar marine ecosystem. Our models are inspired by statistical physics and theories of homogenization for composite materials. Processes of interest include fluid and electromagnetic transport through the brine and polycrystalline microstructure of sea ice, advection diffusion, waves on ice-covered seas, remote sensing, the evolution of melt ponds, and the dynamics of the sea ice concentration field.  We also investigate how the microstructure of sea ice influences, and is influenced by, microbial communities living in the ice. This work is helping to advance how sea ice is represented in climate models, and to improve projections of the fate of Earth’s sea ice packs and the ecosystems they support.