Ellen Gould Zweibel

Ellen Gould Zweibel


Date of Birth
December 20, 1952

Ellen Zweibel was born in New York City and raised in New Jersey. She began doing research in astronomy while an undergraduate in mathematics at the University of Chicago. As a graduate student of J.P. Ostriker, she earned her Ph.D. at Princeton University in 1977 with a thesis on “The equilibrium and radial oscillations of cool stellar disks.” After a postdoctoral year at the Institute for Advanced Study, she went to Boulder, Colorado, where she first worked at the High Altitude Observatory. She then spent 22 years at the University of Colorado Boulder, most of them also affiliated with what is now JILA. In 2003, she moved to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is currently the William L. Kraushaar Professor of Astronomy and Physics and also a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor.

Zweibel is a theoretical astrophysicist whose research deals mostly with the physics of plasmas and magnetic fields. She has applied data from computer simulations, laboratory experiments, and astronomical observations to develop models of star formation, stellar and solar flares, neutron stars, and more. She has long been especially interested in cosmic rays and their interactions with the interstellar and intergalactic media, including the feedback between star formation and cosmic rays. She has many publications on the dynamics of plasmas and such topics as shear flow turbulence. She has supervised more than a dozen doctoral students and several undergraduates and postdoctoral researchers as well. She has been a leader in connecting plasma physics with astrophysics.

Personal Web Page

At the University of Wisconsin–Madison

Presentation of Bruce medal

Astronomical Society of the Pacific

Biographical materials

People Behind the Science Podcast, 2018

Other awards

American Physical Society, James Clerk Maxwell Prize for Plasma Physics, 2016

Academic genealogy



People behind the Science
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Named after her

Minor planet #30225 Ellenzweibel


Other References: Scientific

Gould, Ellen & Peter O. Vandervoort, “The Gravitational Acceleration Perpendicular to the Galactic Plane,” Astronomical Journal 77, (1972).

Spitzer, Lyman, Jr. & Ellen Gould Zweibel, “On the Theory of H2 Rotational Excitation,” Ap.J. 191, L127-L130 (1974).

Zweibel, Ellen, “The equilibrium of cool stellar disks,” Ap.J. 222, 103-09 (1978).

Spruit, H.C. & E.G. Zweibel, “Convective instability of thin flux tubes, Solar Physics 62, 15-22 (1979).

Zweibel, Ellen G. & Karl Josafatsson, “Hydromagnetic wave dissipation in molecular clouds,” Ap.J. 270, 511-18 (1983).

McKee, Christopher F. & Ellen G. Zweibel, “On the Virial Theorem for Turbulent Molecular Clouds,” Ap.J. 399, 551-62 (1992).

Heiles, Carl, Alyssa A. Goodman, Christopher F. McKee, & Ellen G. Zweibel, “Magnetic Fields in Star-Forming Regions: Observations,” in Eugene H. Levy & Jonathan I. Lunine, eds., Protostars and Planets III (University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 1993), pp. 279-326.

McKee, Christopher F., Ellen G. Zweibel, Alyssa A. Goodman, & Carl Heiles, “Magnetic Fields in Star-Forming Regions: Theory,” in Eugene H. Levy & Jonathan I. Lunine, eds., Protostars and Planets III (University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 1993), pp. 327-66.

Brandenburg, Axel & Ellen G. Zweibel, “The Formation of Sharp Structures by Ambipolar Diffusion,” Ap.J. 427, L91-L94 (1994).

Cally, P.S., T.J. Bogdan, & E.G. Zweibel, “Umbral Oscillations in Sunspots: Absorption of p-Modes and Active Region Heating by Mode Conversion,” Ap.J. 437, 505-21 (1994).

McKee, Christopher F. & Ellen G. Zweibel, “Alfven Waves in Interstellar Gasdynamics,” Ap.J. 440, 686-96 (1994).

Zweibel, Ellen G., “Cosmic-Ray History and Its Implications for Galactic Magnetic Fields,” Ap.J. 587, 625-37 (2003).

, , and Magnetic Field Evolution in Neutron Star Crusts Due to the Hall Effect and Ohmic Decay,” Ap.J. 609, 999-1017 (2004).

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