• Adjunct Professor, Biomedical Engineering
  • Distinguished Professor, Mathematics


Ken Golden is a Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Adjunct Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Utah. His main research interests are in mathematics of sea ice and climate, polar ecology, composite materials, statistical physics, and remote sensing. He's been on nineteen polar expeditions to obtain data that inform sea ice models, and given over 500 invited lectures on six continents, including four presentations to the U.S. Congress. Golden has won awards for teaching, mentoring, and science communication. His research has been covered by media around the world, including profiles in Science, Scientific American, Physics Today, and by the BBC. He is an Inaugural Fellow of the American Mathematical Society, a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, cited for “extraordinary interdisciplinary work on the mathematics of sea ice,” a Fellow of the Electromagnetics Academy, and a Fellow of the Explorers Club, whose members have included Neil Armstrong and Jane Goodall.

Research Summary

Modeling Sea Ice and its Ecosystems in a Warming Climate. Earth’s sea ice covers form a key component of the climate system. Their precipitous declines impact the polar marine environment and its ecosystems, with ripple effects felt far beyond the polar regions. As a material sea ice exhibits composite structure on many length scales. A principal challenge is how to use smaller scale information to find effective properties on larger scales relevant to climate and ecological models, and the inverse problem of recovering small scale parameters from bulk observations. From tiny brine inclusions to ice pack dynamics on oceanic scales, and from microbes to polar bears, our work focuses on modeling sea ice and the ecosystems it hosts. We employ many areas of math and physics, including percolation theory, fractal geometry, random matrix theory, statistical mechanics, advection diffusion, topological data analysis, and uncertainty quantification. As a multiscale composite that shares similarities to many other materials, our sea ice work yields spin-off results in geophysics, medicine, and materials science. We also conduct field experiments on sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic, to inform our models and discover new phenomena. This work is advancing how sea ice is represented in climate models, and improving projections of the fate of Earth’s sea ice packs and the ecosystems they support.