E.J. Zita

Zita is an organic farmer and a physics professor. Her training is in magneto-hydrodynamics (the study of the dynamics of magnetized plasmas, which are hot ionized gases). Her past research is on fusion energy, and the dynamics of magnetic stars, including our Sun.  Zita’s current work focuses on climate change, sustainability, and policy.

For Evergreen’s Student Advising Handbook:

Zita teaches introductory to advanced physics, math, astronomy, astrophysics, and climate change, along with social applications and history and philosophy of science. She worked in energy research (magnetic confinement plasma fusion), then researched nonlinear dynamics in magnetic stars, such as the Sun’s magnetic dynamo. Zita developed a testable dynamo model for certain magnetic stars.  Her solar physics research, with colleagues from the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, contributes to our understanding of the Sun’s magnetic cycles and their effects on Earth.

Evergreen students helped us learn how magnetic waves carry energy from the cool photosphere to the hot solar corona, by observing, calculating, and analyzing data. Zita welcomes student projects that teach her new things and help her keep up to date on research developments in diverse areas of science (not pseudo-science). 

Zita’s current work focuses on environment and sustainability.  Students in Energy Systems, contracts, and other programs have analyzed energy available on campus from diverse sources, designed projects, secured funding, and collaborated with Facilities and others to build working systems.  One result is the photovoltaic installation covering Evergreen’s Tacoma campus building since 2017.

Zita has co-taught in interdisciplinary programs with colleagues in history, chemistry, mathematics, geology, astronomy, sailing, ocean biology, economics, anthropology, literature, and cultural studies.

When Zita teaches in the undergraduate curriculum, students do research projects in her classes, usually in teams. Contracts or internships can be good options for students who have already taken one of Zita’s programs, and are prepared to deepen their engagement. Students interested in science contracts should demonstrate good math skills. Every student interested in a contract should demonstrate good writing and critical thinking, maturity, and a high level of personal responsibility for their own learning process.

Zita has been teaching in the Masters of Environmental Studies (MES) program since fall 2018.

Education and intervening research

1993 PhD, Physics, University of Wisconsin – Madison
    (magnetohydrodynamics of Reversed Field Pinch plasmas)

1989: Fusion research, Los Alamos National Lab, New Mexico

1984-1985: Fusion research, General Atomics, San Diego

1983: Space Sciences Lab, University of Minnesota

1983 B.A. cum laude, Physics and Philosophy, Carleton College (magnetic confinement fusion and feminist philosophy)

PhD and post-doctoral research:

current work:  climate change and sustainability

2008-2012: solar astrophysics with the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, Palo Alto, CA

2000-2008:  solar astrophysics with the High Altitude Observatory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research

summers 1998 – 1999: astrophysics at The Evergreen State College, and astronomy with Manastash Ridge Observatory and Rattlesnake Mountain Observatory

summers 1993-95: stellar astrophysics at Iowa State University, Ames

1989-92:  theoretical/numerical plasma physics at UW-Madison: 3D MHD modeling of helical resistive tearing modes

1985-89:  experimental plasma physics at UW-Madison; helped build and operate the Madison Symmetric Torus RFP and diagnostics


1995-present:  Member of the Faculty, The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA

1993-95:  Visiting assistant professor, Grinnell College, Grinnell, IA

1992-93:  Visiting faculty, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY