Gary Zank



Gary Zank, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor,
Chair, Department of Space Science


Gary Zank's journey from a South African graduate student interested in applied mathematics to a successful career in space physics, invasive biology and homeland security includes the illustrious character traits of leadership, initiative, discipline, opportunity, and dedication. Initially interested in partially differentiated equations he sort of drifted off into space physics. "You work on one problem and then another, and pretty soon you're a card-carrying space physicist." Gary Zank came to The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAHuntsville) in July of 2008 as the new Pei-Ling Chan Chair Scholar in Physics and also as the Director for the Center for Space Plasma and Aerononmic Research (CSPAR). In June of 2010 he added to his responsibilities the Chair of the Physics Department in the College of Science. UAHuntsville's long, successful history in space physics, plus its proximity to NASA and USR space science groups, helped attract not only Gary Zank but also his entire team (with its research contracts and grants) to Huntsville. As a space physicist, Gary helped build a 21-member research team at the University of California, Riverside, even though UCR had no previous history of doing space physics. Gary is also one of the leading theorists working on the IBEX satellite, which earlier this year (2010) started returning data on the shape and size of the sun's "bubble" in the interstellar medium. Other notable funded research since his move to UAHuntsville include NASA's "Particle Acceleration for Solar Energetic Particle and Energetic Particle Storm Events"(2008), GSFC/EPSCoR's "The Dynamical Inner Heliosheath and the Space Radiation Environment"(2009), and most recently SAO's "Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons (SWEAP) Investigations for Solar Probe"(2010).

Gary is well known in the world of Space Physics for his extensive list of peer-reviewed publications and numerous books. Gary is also distinguished in his field because of his wide-ranging honors and awards achieved throughout his career. Notable mentionable since joining UAHuntsville are, "The Solar Terrestrial Distinguished Lecture, Asia Oceania Geosciences Society (AOGS) 2008 Meeting", "The Board of Trustees of The University of Alabama resolved February 8, 2008 to endow Gary P. Zank, Ph.D. the Pei-Ling Chan Endowed Chair in Physics College of Science" (current); and "Quest for Excellence Award, 2009, SciQuest".

Gary's work in biology grew out of his interest in swimming. He spends one and a half-hours every day swimming. He used to do lunchtime laps with a couple of his colleagues. One of them was a biologist interested in invasive species. "It turns out that the equations that physicist use to describe the spread of parasite have a close relationship to equations used to describe the dispersal of gas in a turbulent environment.... It is an extremely interesting problem that is amenable to some very intense computational modeling."

This intense computational modeling is the driving force behind Gary Zank's desire to spend countless time on his research. It does not matter how many meetings he attend, how many decisions he has to make in a day or where he is traveling to speak at invited talks or teach, he stills finds time to invest in his research. This investment of this time is clearly represented in his achievements over the years, which puts him category of a cutting-edge leader in the world of space physics.


  • Ph.D., University of Natal, South Africa, 1987
  • M.S., University of Natal, South Africa, 1983
  • B.S., University of Natal, South Africa, 1982

Classes Taught

Recent grants & contracts

  • Microstructure of the termination shock (NASA NNH07ZDA001N-SHP) - $360,000.
  • Particle acceleration for solar energetic particle and energetic storm particle events (NASA NNH08ZDA001N-HGI) - $363,000.
  • The dynamical inner heliosheath and the space radiation environment (NASA NNH09ZNE002C EPSCoR) - $665,478.
  • Physics of the Ribbon and related problems (NASA NNH09ZDA001N-SHP) - $414,649.
  • Particle acceleration at inner heliospheric shock waves during solar maximum (NASA NNH13ZDA001N-HGI) - $507,181.


Selected Publications

  • Faltering Steps into the Galaxy: the Boundary Regions of the Heliosphere, by G.P. Zank, Annual Reviews of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 53, 449 - 500, doi:10.2246/annurev-astro-082214-122254, 2015.
  • Small-scale magnetic islands in the solar wind and their role in particle acceleration Part 1: Dynamics of magnetic islands near the heliospheric current sheet, by O.Khabarova, G.P. Zank, G.Li, J.A. le Roux, G.M. Webb, A. Dosch, V.V. Zharkova, and O.E. Malandraki, ApJ, 808, 181. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/808/2/181, 2015.
  • Adhikari, L., Zank, G. P., Bruno, R., Telloni, D., Hunana, P., Dosch, A., Marino, R., and Hu, Q., The transport of low-frequency turbulence in astrophysical flows. II. Solutions for the super-alfvénic solar wind, Astrophysical Journal, 805, 63 (2015).
  • Diffusive Shock Acceleration and Reconnection Processes, by G.P. Zank, P. Hunana, P. Mostafavi, J.A. le Roux, Gang Li, G.M. Webb, O. Khabarova, A. Cummings, and E. Stone ApJ, 814, 137, doi:10.1088/0004-637X/814/2/137, 2015.
  • le Roux, J. A., Zank, G. P., Webb, G. M., and Khabarova, O., A kinetic transport theory for particle acceleration and transport in regions of multiple contracting and reconnecting inertial-scale flux ropes, Astrophysical Journal, 801, 112 (2015).
  • Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons (SWEAP) Investigation: Design of the Solar Wind and Coronal Plasma Instrument Suite for Solar Probe Plus, by Justin C. Kasper, Robert Abiad, Gerry Austin, Marianne Balat-Pichelin, Stuart D. Bale, John W. Belcher, Peter Berg, Henry Bergner, Matthieu Berthomier, Jay Bookbinder, Etienne Brodu, David Caldwell, Anthony W. Case, Benjamin D.G. Chandran, Peter Cheimets, Jonathan W. Cirtain, Steven R. Cranmer, DavidW. Curtis, Peter Daigneau, Greg Dalton, Brahmananda Dasgupta, David DeTomaso, Millan Diaz-Aguado, Blagoje Djordjevic, Bill Donaskowski, Michael Effinger, Vladimir Florinski, Nichola Fox, Mark Freeman, Dennis Gallagher, S. Peter Gary, Tom Gauron, Richard Gates, Melvin Goldstein, Leon Golub, Dorothy A. Gordon, Reid Gurnee, Giora Guth, Jasper Halekas, Ken Hatch, Jacob Heerikuisen, George Ho, Qiang Hu, Greg Johnson, Steven P. Jordan, Kelly E. Korreck, Davin Larson, Alan J. Lazarus, Gang Li, Roberto Livi, Michael Ludlam, Milan Maksimovic, James P. McFadden, William Marchant, Bennet A. Maruca, David J. McComas, Luciana Messina, Tony Mercer, Sang Park, Andrew M. Peddie, Nikolai Pogorelov, Matthew J. Reinhart, John D. Richardson, Miles Robinson, Irene Rosen, Ruth M. Skoug, Amanda Slagle, John T. Steinberg, Michael L. Stevens, Adam Szabo, Ellen R. Taylor, Chris Tiu, Paul Turin, Marco Velli, Gary Webb, Phyllis Whittlesey, Ken Wright, S.T. Wu, Gary Zank, Space Sci Rev., DOI 10.1007/s11214-015-0206-3, 2015.
  • Multi-symplectic magnetohydrodynamics: II, addendum and erratum, by G.M. Webb, J.F. McKenzie, and G.P. Zank, J. Plasma Phys. (2015), vol. 81, 905810610, doi:10.1017/S0022377815001415, 2015.
  • Lyman-alpha radiation pressure in the heliosphere: Results from a 3D Monte-Carlo radiative transfer simulation, by B. Fayock, G.P. Zank, J. Heerikhuisen, C.R. Gilbert, and K. Scherer, Proc. 14th Annual Int. Astrophysics Conf., Tampa, Open Access Journal of Physics: Conference Series (JPCS), ed. G.P. Zank, 642, 012007 doi:10.1088/1742-6596/642/1/012007 (2015).
  • Energetic ion acceleration by small-scale flux ropes, by J.A. le Roux, G.M. Webb, G.P. Zank, and O. Khabarova, Proc. 14th Annual Int. Astrophysics Conf., Tampa, Open Access Journal of Physics: Conference Series (JPCS), ed. G.P. Zank, 642, 012015 doi:10.1088/1742-6596/642/1/012015 (2015).
  • Dynamical small-scale magnetic islands as a source of local acceleration of particles in the solar wind, by O.V. Khabarova, G.P. Zank, Gang Li, J.A. le Roux, G.M. Webb, O.E. Malandraki, and V.V. Zharkova, Proc. 14th Annual Int. Astrophysics Conf., Tampa, Open Access Journal of Physics: Conference Series (JPCS), ed. G.P. Zank, 642, 012033 doi:10.1088/1742-6596/642/1/012033(2015).
  • Anisotropies in TeV Cosmic Rays Related to the IBEX Ribbon, by N. A. Schwadron, P. Frisch, F. C. Adams, E. Christian, P. Desiati, H. O. Funsten, J. R. Jokipii, D.J. McComas, E. Moebius, and G. Zank, ASTRA Proceedings, in press (2015).
  • The transport of low-frequency turbulence in the super-Alfvenic solar wind, by L. Adhikari, G.P. Zank, R. Bruno, D. Telloni, P. Hunana, A. Dosch, R. Marino, and Q. Hu, Proc. 14th Annual Int. Astrophysics Conf., Tampa, Open Access Journal of Physics: Conference Series (JPCS), ed. G.P. Zank, 642, 012001 doi:10.1088/1742-6596/642/1/012001 (2015).
  • Particle acceleration by combined diffusive shock acceleration and downstream multiple magnetic island acceleration, by G P Zank, P Hunana, P Mostafavi, J A le Roux, Gang Li, G M Webb, and O Khabarova, Proc. 14th Annual Int. Astrophysics Conf., Tampa, Open Access Journal of Physics: Conference Series (JPCS), ed. G.P. Zank, 642, 012031 doi:10.1088/1742-6596/642/1/012031 (2015).
  • Heerikhuisen, J., Zirnstein, E. J., Funsten, H. O., Pogorelov, N. V., and Zank, G. P., The effect of new interstellar medium parameters on the heliosphere and energetic neutral atoms from the interstellar boundary, Astrophysical Journal, 784, 73 (2014).
  • Zirnstein, E. J., Heerikhuisen, J., Zank, G. P., Pogorelov, N. V., McComas, D. J., and Desai, M. I., Charge-exchange coupling between pickup ions across the heliopause and its effect on energetic neutral hydrogen flux, Astrophysical Journal, 783, 129 (2014).
  • Neergaard Parker, L., Zank, G. P., and Hu, Q. Particle acceleration at quasi-perpendicular shock waves: Theory and observations at 1 AU, Astrophysical Journal, 782, 52 (2014).
  • Schwadron, N. A., Adams, F. C., Christian, E. R., Desiati, P., Frisch, P., Funsten, H. O., Jokipii, J. R., McComas, D. J., Moebius, E., and Zank, G. P., Global anisotropies in TeV cosmic rays related to the Sun’s local galactic environment from IBEX, Science, 343, 988 (2014).