Prof. David Zingg

The Sky is Not the Limit

University of Toronto’s Professor David Zingg savours the challenges of Academia.


David Zingg is a Professor and the Director of the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies. We asked him everything from what he likes most about being a scientist to what advice he has for young researchers in hopes of giving you a better understanding of what goes on outside the lab for one of the best minds in Canadian research.

What do you like most about being a scientist?
I consider myself more a professor than a scientist. I like almost everything about being a professor, teaching and advising students, the autonomy, the opportunity for continuous learning, the research challenges, the variety, and the global nature of research, i.e. the opportunity to interact with people all over the world.

What do you envision in the future of your field?
Within the field of aeronautics, just like many human endeavours, the future of civil aviation will be dominated by the need to make it sustainable while continuing to contribute positively to the world. Also in the field of aeronautics, many new opportunities are associated with autonomous flying vehicles, many applications of which we have not thought of yet.

What do you read?
I read a lot of European crime fiction, authors like Dibdin, Vazquez-Montalban, Camilleri, Vargas, Rankin, and Mankell.

What do you like to do for fun?
It is hard to beat a day at an ocean beach. I also enjoy travelling with my family, hiking, touch football, basketball, tennis, and windsurfing.

What advice would you give young researchers?
I offer three pieces of advice to young researchers, the third of which is the most important:

  1. Choose your research field carefully. Ideally a research field should meet several criteria. It should be important such that new and improved ideas will have a significant societal impact. There should be a reasonable likelihood of advances and breakthroughs. Of course, you must enjoy it and be reasonably good at it. Personally I prefer research areas that combine a need for deep fundamental investigation with practical societal value. Finally it should provide interesting topics and meet these criteria for a long time, e.g. a 40-year career.
  1. Don’t dabble; you must focus in order to do excellent research.
  1. Don’t take advice from others too seriously.