Engineering Prof. Tamas Gombosi lectured on what he called his “personal journey through the solar system.”
Gambosi lectured in Rackham Amphitheatre Monday upon receiving a named professorship in the Department of Engineering — the Konstantin I. Gringauz distinguished University Professor of Space Science.
Gambosi directs of the Center for Space Environment Modeling and founded the University’s doctorate program in space and planetary physics and the master’s program in space engineering.
Throughout his career, he made scientific contributions to the fields of planetary exploration and the physics of space and the planets.
University President Mark Schlissel opened the lecture by congratulating Gombosi for his dedication to teaching and research.
“As a space physicist, Professor Gombosi has contributed significantly to space and planetary physics and in revolutionizing space weather research,” Schlissel said. “His accomplishments include developing the first time dependent model of terrestrial polar winds flowing from the ionosphere to the magnetosphere.”
The son of Hungarian Holocaust survivors, Gombosi credited his sense of persistence to his family background.
Gombosi earned his master’s and doctorate degrees from Loránd Eötvös University in Budapest in 1970, where he met space pioneer Konstantin Gringauz. Gringauz later became his mentor as Gombosi completed his postdoctoral research at the Space Research Institute in Moscow.
While in Russia they studied the impacts of solar winds on the charged spheres of Venus.
“I was just a kid from Hungary back then,” Gombosi said. “I stepped out of my comfort zone. Coming from Hungary, where this was no space program, to the Russian Space Research Institute, it felt like heaven.”
Considered an international diplomat in the world of science, he is also renowned for working with a diverse group of scientists from around the world.
In 1980, he worked for the Soviet Union’s first major international planetary mission, the VEGA mission. Since joining the University faculty in 1987, Gombosi has worked on sending the Rosetta satellite to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko and developing software to monitor space weather.
Still, Gombosi said he is most enthusiastic about teaching.
“We have learned everything from our mentors,” Gombosi said. “The scientific community can only reach milestones if we too mentor our future generation students. We don’t carry out research for money though. You should only do it if you enjoy.”
Dogacan Ozturk, a Ph.D. candidate in Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, said as an international student, he found Gombosi’s speech inspiring.
“Attending this lecture really showed that your background didn’t matter if you have passion for it,” Ozturk said. “He’s a remarkable professor.”