Kevin Zumbrun completed his Ph.D. in mathematics from the Courant Institute at New York University in 1990. He was a visiting professor and NSF postdoctoral fellow at SUNY Stony Brook and Stanford University before joining the IU Bloomington Department of Mathematics as assistant professor in 1992. He was promoted to associate professor in 1996 and professor in 1999. From 2006-2008 he served as director of graduate studies for the department and from 2009-2014 he served as chairperson. Since coming to IU, Professor Zumbrun has held visiting appointments in Brazil, France, and Italy.
Described as "the top US mathematician in his age group working in the extremely important field of nonlinear partial differential equations," and "one of the very few world leaders in the field of conservation laws," Zumbrun is "a prolific researcher" whose dynamical systems approach in the area of nonlinear partial differential equations has opened up an entire school of thought around this subject. Zumbrun's innovative approach to the determination of the stability of waves began with his 1998 papers (with R. Gardner and P. Howard) which revolutionized the approach to determine the stability of viscous shock waves. Zumbrun "has brought the theory of wave stability to its ultimate and perfect settlement. For this, he had to master geometrical and analytical aspects, where most of us can only pretend to master one." Zumbrun's approach has allowed him to solve longstanding and technically distinct open problems such as stability of Navier-Stokes shocks, multi-dimensional stability of viscous shock waves, behavior in the inviscid and strong shock limits, and dynamics and bifurcation of shock and boundary layers. He solved the 35-year open problem of behavior of periodic Kuramoto-Sivashinsky waves, which had appeared completely intractable by existing theory. "Zumbrun has risen to the top by his willingness to transcend the prejudices of the field, and, while working on a focused set of problems, has invoked and developed a non-standard set of techniques…he has achieved results that many of us could only dream about."
Zumbrun received the Navy Young Investigator Award in 1994, the Dean's Distinguished Research Fellowship in 2004, was elected a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society in 2014, and received the prestigious appointment Chaire d'Excellence de Paris in 2014. He has over 150 publications to his credit and his research has received continuous support from the National Science Foundation from 1991-present, including individual grants that total five to seven times the average grant in the field. Of his twelve Ph.D. graduates to date, two have received NSF Postdoctoral fellowships, one received Fondation de Paris and Brown Praeger postdoctoral positions, two received prestigious NSF CAREER grants, and one received a COAS dissertation year fellowship. Kevin has also mentored five postdoctoral fellows, two of whom obtained competitive NSF postdoctoral awards, two obtained NSF CAREER awards, and three have gone on to be Full Professors at subsequent institutions.
Zumbrun received the IU Bicentennial Medal in September 2020 in recognition of his distinguished contributions to Indiana University.