UCLA will celebrate the life of Maha Ashour-Abdalla, a beloved professor of physics who died May 1 at the age of 71. The celebration will be held at UCLA’s Faculty Center on Friday, Sept. 9, starting at 4 p.m., and is open to the UCLA community. 

Praised by her colleagues and students as extremely dedicated, charismatic, engaging and loyal, Ashour-Abdalla was born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt. She excelled in mathematics and finished high school very young, entering college at age 15. She was appointed as a professor in UCLA’s Department of Physics and Astronomy in 1985. She was awarded the Outstanding Teacher Award from the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy 11 times.

Ashour-Abdalla's primary expertise was in space plasma physics. She founded the UCLA Space Plasma Simulation Group, which was one of the first groups in the country dedicated to using plasma physics simulations for magnetospheric physics in close coordination with spacecraft data. She was principal investigator or co-investigator on a number of NASA missions. She served on advisory panels for the National Academy of Sciences, National Science Foundation and NASA.

In her undergraduate space physics courses, she used videos and computer visualizations to demonstrate how the Earth’s environment changes in response to solar activity. Hands-on computer simulations were an integral part of her class, enabling students to experiment by themselves on the effects of varying solar wind parameters on geospace.

Ashour-Abdalla founded and became the director of UCLA’s Center for Digital Innovation in 1999. One of the main achievements of the center was the development of interactive educational software using multimedia and computer simulations. During her 12-year tenure, the center produced a rich variety of CDROM- and web-based courses and programs, from courses that made college physics and chemistry more interesting and understandable to a preparation course for the California High School Exit Exam.

In lieu of sending flowers, contributions are requested to the Maha Ashour-Abdalla Scholarship in Space Physics, which will encourage and support women who are starting graduate studies in the space physics. The scholarship fund is managed by the American Geophysical Union. To contribute, go the organization's contribution website and choose the Maha Ashour-Abdalla Scholarship Fund from the “Student Grants, Scholarships, Activities” drop-down menu. If you prefer, you may send a check, payable to the American Geophysical Union and with the note “Ashour-Abdalla Fund” on the memo line, to: Development Department, American Geophysical Union, 2000 Florida Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009.