Dr. Jakob van Zyl is the associate director of Project Formulation and Strategy at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Formerly, he was the director for JPL's Astronomy and Physics Directorate. Van Zyl received an honors bachelor's degree cum laude in electronics engineering from the University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa. He received both his master's and his doctorate in electrical engineering from Caltech.
Van Zyl joined JPL in 1986 and held positions of increasing responsibility in the synthetic aperture radar program. In addition, he managed the Radar Science and Engineering Section, the Earth Science Flight Missions and Experiments Office, and the Focused Physical Oceanography and Solid Earth Program Office. He was appointed deputy director for the Astronomy and Physics Directorate in 2002. He has been an adjunct faculty member in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, University of Southern California, where he taught the class "Remote Sensing Systems from Space" from 1997 to 2001. Since 2002, he has been teaching the class "Physics and Techniques of Remote Sensing" at Caltech.