Dr. Zimbelman served as the Chairman 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; topographic signatures of paleolake shoreline features on Earth and Mars; and various field studies in volcanic and desert terrains.
He has over 80 peer-reviewed articles published in scientific journals and books, planetary maps published by the U.S. Geological Survey, and over 370 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 member of the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior, and the International Cartographic Association. 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), and he gives public lectures on a variety of topics in planetary science for the Smithsonian Institution's national and international lecture programs.