Member Since 1994
Alik Ismail-Zadeh
Research Professor, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Alik Ismail-Zadeh is a mathematical geophysicist known for his contribution to computational geodynamics and natural hazard research. He is AGU Fellow and a recipient of AGU International (2009) and Ambassador (2019) awards.
Professional Experience
Baku State University
2020 - Present
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Research Professor
Institute of Earthquake Prediction Theory and Mathematical Geophysics, Russian Academy of Sciences
Lomonosov Moscow State University
Organization Not Listed
Show All Education
Show Less Education
Honors & Awards
Ambassador Award
Received December 2019
Sunanda Basu, Alik Ismail-Zadeh, Margaret Leinen, Connie Millar, and Lixin Wu were awarded the 2019 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 11 December 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for “outstanding contribution...
Sunanda Basu, Alik Ismail-Zadeh, Margaret Leinen, Connie Millar, and Lixin Wu were awarded the 2019 Ambassador Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 11 December 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. The award is for “outstanding contributions to one or more of the following areas: societal impact, service to the Earth and space community, scientific leadership, and promotion of talent/career pool.”  

Dr. Ismail-Zadeh has the requisite research record, citations, and visiting professorships and fellowships that we expect of high-performing members of our fields. He is that and much more.

His scientific work is truly interdisciplinary, involving applied mathematics, geophysics, natural hazards, science diplomacy, and history across regions from the central Apennines to the Tibetan Himalayas. His engagement and leadership across the national and international geophysical scientific community are immense: He has helped promote geosciences from Earth observations and applications in the atmospheric, climate, and hydrological sciences to volcanology and space weather for the United Nations (UN) Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the World Meteorological Organization, the Group on Earth Observations, and others. More broadly, he has supported disaster risk assessment and management efforts for the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, including for controlling underground nuclear explosions through the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. In addition, he has initiated a number of outreach and education efforts, including the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) Science Grants, Science Education, Science Publication, and Science Policy programs.

Dr. Ismail-Zadeh’s impact is long lasting. In one illustration, when he started the work on the formation of AGU’s Natural Hazards focus group in 2009, only a few professed interest. Today, the Natural Hazards section unites thousands of researchers. To wit, both IUGG and AGU have selected issues of natural hazards and disasters as key foci of their centennial scientific themes and celebrations.

Two telling statements from other highly recognized researchers in our fields reflect on Dr. Ismail-Zadeh’s singular characteristics: “What has been achieved in these areas has been due in no small measure, to Alik’s inputs and unique qualities. His efforts are tireless and is characterized by a willingness to use his own time in order to save yours.…above all, I value his mature judgment and guidance.” And “the sense of pride about his upbringing and family truly shows the human values he cherishes. Judging from his passion and commitment to our profession, this also reflects his feelings and unqualified commitment towards his scientific family, which has made him an ideal ambassador for Earth and Space sciences.”

There are many more such sentiments. Dr. Ismail-Zadeh’s contributions have been “seismic” on many levels. His formal recognition as an ambassador is a credit to the vision of AGU and most significantly attests to the power of employing science to help secure the safety and sustainability of our societies and systems.

—Roger S. Pulwarty, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, Colo.

I am honored to receive an AGU Ambassador Award and am grateful to Roger Pulwarty for nominating me and to Harsh Gupta, Yuan Tseh Lee, Özlem Adiyaman Lopes, and Soroosh Soroshian for supporting the nomination. I am honored twice to receive the award in 2019, the year of the AGU Centennial and my 25-year membership in the Union. Graduating as a mathematician, I moved to geophysics and dedicated my life to studies of dynamics of the lithosphere and mantle and their manifestation in sedimentary basin evolution and, later, in earthquakes and volcanic activities. It was the time of eureka, when scientific discoveries brought satisfaction, enjoyment, and happiness. The beginning of the 21st century, however, changed my professional life from pure science to science for society. After the 2004 great Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunamis, I asked myself, “What is the value of the science I am doing, if this science cannot protect people against disasters? What is a missing link between science and society?” My scientific adviser and colleague V. Keilis-Borok liked to say that “a scientist is not merely a person who conducts scientific research; a scientist is a person who cannot live without doing so.” So true…I would only add that a scientist is a person who should help society to improve well-being. “An instant understanding, the efficiency of thought and action, and a good feeling that comes when the like-minded people work together…” (F. Press, as quoted by V. I. Keilis-Borok in One Hundred Reasons to be a Scientist, p. 124, Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy, 2004). For the past 2 decades, I have tried to work together with natural and social scientists and engineers in solving challenging problems of society, including disaster risk reduction, and to speak to representatives of industry and international nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations as well as to national and regional policy makers to convince them that science is available and ready to be used in their daily activities to benefit humanity. What brings me the biggest satisfaction after scientific discoveries are the results of my voluntary work in various capacities on behalf of AGU, the European Geosciences Union, IUGG, and the International Science Council. Creating new knowledge and delivering it to society, being an ambactus of the scientific community, and bridging nations via science are my credo. I am pleased that AGU recognizes the contribution to service to the Earth and Space science community and science policy leadership with the award and happy to join AGU Ambassadors. —Alik Ismail-Zadeh, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany; also at Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow
See Details
Close Details
Union Fellow
Received December 2019
International Award
Received May 2009
Alik Ismail-Zadeh received the AGU International Award at the Joint Assembly, held 26 May 2009 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The award honors “an individual scientist or a small team for making an outstanding contribution to furthering the Earth and s...
Alik Ismail-Zadeh received the AGU International Award at the Joint Assembly, held 26 May 2009 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The award honors “an individual scientist or a small team for making an outstanding contribution to furthering the Earth and space sciences and using our science for the benefit of society in less favored nations.”  

It is a pleasure to introduce Alik Ismail-Zadeh, recipient of the 2009 AGU International Award. Alik Ismail-Zadeh, a theoretical geophysicist born in Azerbaijan and educated in Russia, built international cooperative linkages at the detailed research level. He then widened those linkages to deal with the societal implications of his research. He heavily invested his time and energy to foster international collaboration among geophysicists at international, regional, and national levels. Since the early 1990s he has established international research cooperation with universities and research centers worldwide. The list includes prestigious European, American, Japanese, and Israeli universities as well as research institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences, Georgian Ministry for Science and Education, and Pakistani Academy of Sciences. For more than a decade he has worked and taught at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics to promote geophysical science and education in the third world.

My involvement with Alik started about 10 years ago after he agreed to become vice chair of the Commission on Geophysical Risk and Sustainability of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG). In that role, we jointly organized a meeting at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Alik was successful in attracting participants from Eastern European countries and finding funding for them. The meeting issued the Budapest Manifesto on Risk Science and Sustainability (, which guided the subsequent work of the commission.

In due course Alik became chair of the commission, and after the 26 December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami he prepared a special IUGG resolution ( that was presented to the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction, in Kobe, Japan, and formed the basis for similar resolutions from the International Council for Science (ICSU). The subsequent implementation of the Indian Ocean Monitoring System is, in part, attributable to the credibility that these resolutions imparted to the process. He is an indefatigable organizer of international workshops in many locations that attract outstanding contributors, promote international cooperation, produce high-quality publications, and generate tangible outcomes.

Alik has long been involved with AGU, and displaying the spirit of unselfish cooperation that AGU seeks to foster, he has worked actively to expand AGU activities in Eastern Europe, especially in Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union; in 2002 he founded the Russian Contact Center of the AGU to promote cooperation between AGU members in the former Soviet Union. He served several terms on the AGU Committee for International Participation. Most recently, he was appointed chair of the newly established AGU Focus Group on Natural Hazards.

Alik is an extremely organized and prodigious worker. His organizational abilities led to his being elected secretary-general of the IUGG. As one of the most senior IUGG officers, he promotes cooperation between IUGG and ICSU regional offices. He is co-organizing the International Union of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (IUTAM)/IUGG Spring School, Fluid Mechanics and Geophysics of Environmental Hazards,” which will take place in Singapore later this year, and he is part of the IUGG project Geoscience for Africa” on the topic of geohazards in Africa.

His success in these endeavors arises not only because of his energy and drive, but also because of his engaging personality and a fluency with languages that enables him freely to converse in English, Russian, German, and, of course Azeri, his mother tongue, which is sufficiently akin to Turkish that he can freely converse with the Turks as well.

We honor Alik Ismail-Zadeh in recognition of his outstanding work for the international geocommunity.

—TOM BEER, International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Aspendale, Victoria, Australia

Thank you, Tom, for your kind and generous citation and for your friendship. It is a great and unexpected honor for me to have been selected for the 2009 AGU International Award. I know that today I am a recipient of this award because an international group of distinguished scientists decided that I deserve to receive this honor. I thank Tom Beer (Australia), who nominated me, and Harsh Gupta (India), JoAnn Joselyn (United States), Volodya Kossobokov (Russia), Lawrence Mysak (Canada), Giuliano Panza (Italy), and Uri Shamir (Israel) for their generous support. And surely I am very grateful to AGU for this honor. I was a bit surprised when I read an e-mail from the AGU president about the award and found that the International Award is given for advancing science and benefiting society, while laboring under adverse circumstances with limited resources.” I have not viewed myself as a scientist who works under adverse circumstances with limited resources, but this phrase has brought me to remember life in Russia after Perestroika, the difficulties in the Russian economy, and the critical situation in Russian science. Because of a lack of state funding, Russian academic institutions felt starved of international journals in libraries or access to them via the Internet. Russian scientists, especially young researchers, could not participate in major international meetings. I am thankful to AGU, particularly to Fred Spilhaus, and to the ExxonMobil Corporation for their support of my project to establish the Russian Contact Center of the AGU in Moscow. The Center has been promoting activities of geophysicists living in Russia and the former Soviet republics and assisting them to access AGU publications and to attend AGU meetings. Since the mid 1990s, I have been working in Europe, particularly at the Universität Karlsruhe (Germany) and at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (France), and I still keep my position and graduate students at the Russian Academy of Sciences. A decade ago, I joined the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, and today I try to do my best to promote activities of geophysicists working in many parts of the world. I am happy to seize the opportunity to thank all my colleagues around the world with whom I have shared great moments of scientific findings and who helped me to strengthen research cooperation between nations. I must mention one person who profoundly influenced me in my scientific thinking, in my style of research work, and in developing international cooperation. This person is Vladimir Keilis-Borok, a distinguished professor at University of California, Los Angeles, and the Russian Academy of Sciences. I will always be very grateful to him for starting me off in the right direction. My wife, Sonya, keeps asking me why I go to the Institute seven days a week returning sometimes close to midnight. The answer is simple. I am a scientist, and my research and my work for the geophysical community are a pleasure and a boundless joy. I thank Sonya, my sincere supporter, who accepts my frequent and sometimes prolonged absences, and who makes it possible for me to focus my energies on science and on international scientific cooperation. I express my heartfelt gratitude to AGU. The International Award is the most splendid award in recognition of contribution to the international geophysical community. —ALIK ISMAIL-ZADEH, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia
See Details
Close Details
Current Roles
Natural Hazards Outreach and Advocacy Committee
Honors and Recognition Committee
AGU Abstracts
Data-Driven Numerical Modeling of the Lava Dome Growth at Volcán de Colima, Mexico During 2007-2009
volcanology, geochemistry and petrology | 15 december 2021
Natalya Zeinalova, Alik Ismail-Zadeh, Oleg E. Meln...
Magma extrusion, lava dome growth, collapse of domes, and associated pyroclastic flow hazards are among important volcanological studies. Using camera...
View Abstract
Predicting Lava Dome Viscosity by Analyzing its Observed Morphology
volcanology, geochemistry and petrology | 11 december 2020
Alik Ismail-Zadeh, Yulia Starodubtseva, Ilya Staro...
Lava domes form when highly viscous magma erupts on the surface. Several types of lava dome morphology can be distinguished depending on the flow rate...
View Abstract
Promoting Assessments of Academic Performance in Earth and Space Sciences: The Role of AGU
union | 07 december 2020
Alik Ismail-Zadeh
Assessment reports are released annually by several organizations, which rank world universities including rankings by disciplines/subjects. These ran...
View Abstract

Volunteer Experience
2024 - 2025
Honors and Recognition Committee
2021 - 2024
Natural Hazards Outreach and Advocacy Committee
2021 - 2024
Natural Hazards Executive Committee