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A space science professor who played a leading role in establishing a culture of entrepreneurship at Michigan Engineering and across U-M's campus has been named to a high-ranking post at NASA.

Thomas Zurbuchen, a professor in the departments of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering, and Aerospace Engineering, will be the associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, effective Monday, Oct. 3. NASA announced the appointment Sept. 27.

In this post, he will direct and oversee the nation’s space research program in Earth and space science.

"For me, it is bittersweet to leave Michigan, which has been my home for the past 20 years," Zurbuchen said. "I made many of my closest friends here, advised students and built programs that I'm very proud of. I'm grateful for all the opportunities I've had here."

Zurbuchen came to U-M as a young postdoctoral researcher in engineering. He rose through the ranks to professor, associate dean for entrepreneurial programs at Michigan Engineering, and special counsel to the provost on entrepreneurial education. He was also the founding director of both the Center for Entrepreneurship at Michigan Engineering and Innovate Blue, a campus-wide entrepreneurship and innovation effort. During his research career, he has authored or coauthored more than 200 articles in refereed journals on solar and heliospheric phenomena.

"Thomas has been described as a 'force of nature,' and I fully agree with that assessment," said Professor Alec Gallimore, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering. 

"I, Michigan Engineering and the university as a whole have benefited greatly from his innovative ideas, his dedication to students and his pioneering space research. I look forward to watching this next phase of his career unfold.”

The job he will soon begin was for a long time held by Lennard Fisk, the Thomas M. Donahue Distinguished University Professor of Space Science, who hired Zurbuchen at U-M. 



"I'm honored to follow in the footsteps of a leader I greatly admire," Zurbuchen said. "The experience in building and running an experimental space research program and his mentorship is a prime reason why I feel ready for the job ahead."

Added Jim Slavin, chair of the Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering, “Thomas Zurbuchen has long been a guiding light for the Climate & Space department's education and research programs. He will be greatly missed by our faculty and our students alike. In leading NASA’s Science Mission Directorate on to still greater achievements, Thomas will ensure a bright and exciting future for us at Michigan Engineering and the rest of the nation’s top research universities, space laboratories and commercial space enterprises.”

About Michigan Engineering: The University of Michigan College of Engineering is one of the top engineering schools in the country. Eight academic departments are ranked in the nation's top 10 -- some twice for different programs. Its research budget is one of the largest of any public university. Its faculty and students are making a difference at the frontiers of fields as diverse as nanotechnology, sustainability, healthcare, national security and robotics. They are involved in spacecraft missions across the solar system, and have developed partnerships with automotive industry leaders to transform transportation. Its entrepreneurial culture encourages faculty and students alike to move their innovations beyond the laboratory and into the real world to benefit society. Its alumni base of more than 75,000 spans the globe.