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.
Gary Zank can be reached at:
320 Sparkman Drive
Cramer Hall 2002
Huntsville, Alabama 35899