Dr. Jim Zimbelman served as the department chair of the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies from October 2002, to February, 2007, as part of a rotating chair position among the department scientists. His research interests include topical geologic mapping of Mars and Venus; remote sensing of the terrestrial planets at visual, infrared, and radar wavelengths; lava flow emplacement on the terrestrial planets; sand transport and deposition on Earth and Mars; and field studies in diverse volcanic and desert terrains.
He has over 100 peer-reviewed articles published in scientific journals and books, planetary maps published by the U.S. Geological Survey, and over 430 published abstracts for presentations at various scientific audiences. He was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America in 1999, and he is a long-time member of the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of America. He has served on many committees for NASA, including Chairman of the Planetary Cartography Working Group (1991-4), Chairman of the RPIF Directors and Data Managers Working Group (1994-7), Chairman of the Mars Surveyor '98 Instrument Review Panel (1995), and Chairman of the Planetary Geology and Geophysics Review Panel (1997-9).
At the National Air and Space Museum, he was director of the Regional Planetary Image Facility at CEPS (1989-02), curator for the Exploring the Planets gallery (1998-02), lead curator for development of the new Exploring the Planets gallery (since 2016) as part of the Transformation effort underway at the Museum, and he gives public lectures on a variety of topics in planetary science for the Smithsonian Institution's national and international lecture programs.