College of Earth and Mineral Sciences mourns death of Fuqing Zhang

July 23, 2019

Fuqing Zhang, distinguished professor of meteorology in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Penn State, died Friday, July 19, not long after being diagnosed with cancer. He was 49.

Zhang will be remembered for his energy, enthusiasm, good sense of humor and love of life. He also will be remembered for his many contributions to his field, particularly in data assimilation and prediction science; for the numerous early-career scientists he mentored; and the myriad scientists from other disciplines whom he introduced to data assimilation.

Zhang's daughter, Lily, shared, "My dad deeply loved his job and considered Penn State his home. He cared for his students and visitors like family and always spoke highly of his colleagues. Even when he was close to death, Dad kept fighting, not for himself but for science. He said he wanted his life and illness to be able to serve future generations. Dad took immense pride in being a scientist and he was one until the end. I hope that his dedication can serve as an inspiration to all of us and that the Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science continues his academic legacy.”

Zhang’s research revolutionized the analysis and prediction of severe weather and hurricanes through advanced data assimilation methodologies that have been widely adopted by forecasting agencies and researchers in the world.

“Fuqing’s pioneering data assimilation and predictability research has vastly improved our ability to accurately predict hurricanes and other severe weather phenomena,” said David Stensrud, head of the Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences at Penn State.  

Zhang, who joined Penn State’s faculty in 2008, also had a joint appointment in Penn State’s Department of Statistics. He was the founding director of Penn State’s Center for Advanced Data Assimilation and Predictability Techniques and was an Institute for CyberScience affiliate.

Zhang received numerous awards for his research, including the American Meteorological Society's 2009 Clarence Leroy Meisinger Award and 2015 Banner I. Miller Award. He also was named a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorology Society.

Most recently, Zhang was awarded Penn State’s 2018 Faculty Scholar Medal “for his innovating and pioneering research on data assimilation” and in 2019, he was named a Penn State Distinguished Professor.

Zhang authored more than 200 peer-reviewed journal publications and presented nearly 300 invited or keynote talks at various institutions and professional meetings. He was one of the three editors for the most recent, six-volume edition of the Encyclopedia of Atmospheric Sciences. He gave U.S. congressional briefings on science’s impacts on weather prediction and economy, and his research has been featured in published interviews by Nature, Science, Reuters, The Washington Post and in other science or media outlets.

Zhang earned his bachelor of science degree in 1991 and master of science degree in 1994, both in meteorology, from Nanjing University, China. He earned his doctorate in atmospheric sciences in 2000 from North Carolina State University.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 23, 2019