Understanding the Arctic as a System

Syun-Ichi Akasofu

IARC Founding Director and Professor of Physics Emeritus

Dr. Syun-Ichi Akasofu, Professor of Physics, Emeritus, was director of the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks 1986–1999 and the founding director of the International Arctic Research Center of the University of Alaska Fairbanks from its establishment in 1998 until January of 2007.

Dr. Akasofu originally came to the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1958 as a graduate student to study the aurora under Sydney Chapman, receiving his PhD in 1961. He has been professor of geophysics since 1964. He has published more than 550 professional journal articles, authored and co-authored 11 books. He has collaborated with many colleagues nationally and internationally, and has guided nine students to their PhD degrees.

Awards and Recognitions

  • Received Hannes Alfvén medal from the European Geoscience Union (2011)
  • Received Alaskan of the Year Denali Award (2009)
  • Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold and Silver Star, conferred by the Emperor of Japan (2003)
  • Received Aurora Award from Fairbanks Convention and Visitors’ Bureau (2003)
  • Received awards of appreciation for efforts in support of international science activities from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Japan (1996) and from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (1993)
  • Named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2001)
  • Received University of Alaska Edith R. Bullock Prize for Excellence (1997)
  • Named a “Centennial Alumni” by the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (1987)
  • Gave lecture on the aurora to the Emperor of Japan (1985)
  • Received first-ever UAF Chapman Chair Professorship (1985)
  • Named one of the “1,000 Most Cited Scientists” (1981)
  • Named a Distinguished Alumnus by UAF (1980)
  • Named a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (1977)
  • Wrote a paper has since become the foundation of the discipline of auroral/magnetospheric substorms (1964)
  • Other awards: Chapman Medal, Royal Astronomy Society of London; Japan Academy of Sciences Award; John Adams Fleming Award, American Geophysical Union
  • Asteroid (4949), at a distance of 2.2 astronomical units, bears Dr. Akasofu’s name

As director of the UAF Geophysical Institute, Dr. Akasofu concentrated on establishing the institute as a key research center in the Arctic. He also played a critical role in the establishment of the Alaska Volcano Observatory and the modernization of the Poker Flat Research Range.

Upon his retirement in 2007, the University of Alaska Board of Regents officially named the building that houses the International Arctic Research Center the Syun-Ichi Akasofu Building in recognition of “his tireless vision and dedicated service to the university, the state, and country in advancing arctic science.”