The 2020 Hannes Alfvén Medal is awarded to Qiugang Zong for his outstanding contributions to the identification of the particle acceleration mechanisms in the magnetosphere and to the development of space plasma physics instrumentation.
Qiugang Zong, Director of the Institute of Space Physics and Applied Technology at Peking University, is a prominent international leader in space plasma physics. He has made breakthrough discoveries in the identification of particle acceleration mechanisms in the magnetosphere. Zong has also excelled in the development of space plasma physics instrumentation and analysis methods as well as in the transmission of his deep knowledge in magnetospheric physics to a new generation of scientists.
One of Zong’s most remarkable achievements of is the identification of the acceleration process of energetic electrons in the Earth’s radiation belts, also known as “killer” electrons. This has been one of the most challenging and long-lasting unsolved problems. His studies showed how the impact of interplanetary shocks on the Earth’s magnetosphere excites ultra-low frequency waves that then accelerate the electrons in the radiation belts, by drift resonance, up to several MeV. Similar acceleration mechanisms can also be applied to the interaction of interplanetary shocks with other planets in our solar system. This discovery has been highlighted as a “top story” in the ESA Science News and in Discover Magazine.
Zong’s outstanding contributions to space plasma physics also include topics such as polar cusp dynamics, the acceleration of hydrogen and oxygen ions by shock-induced ULF waves, and Earthward-moving plasmoids produced in the magnetotail by magnetic reconnection. With such a broad research programme, he has published more than 300 refereed papers in major scientific journals.
Zong is also a remarkable leader in the development of space plasma physics instrumentation and analysis methods. He has been the PI of the Imaging Electron Spectrometer (IES), which was launched in 2015 onboard the Chinese FY3 and FY4 satellites and is supplying key data for magnetospheric substorm injections. In addition, Zong established a team at the Peking University for the development of a new generation ENA (Energetic Neutral Atom) imager, with ultra-high temporal and spatial resolution, utilising semiconductor detectors together with Fourier-transform and a coded-mask imaging system. This ENA imager could help us better understand the nature of geomagnetic storms.
In addition to being a very insightful and productive researcher, Zong is also an excellent teacher and educator who has supervised many master’s, PhD and postdoctoral students. For all these reasons, the 2020 EGU Hannes Alfvén Medal is awarded to Qiugang Zong.