The present research interests of Professor Zinner are centered on the study of primitive meteorites, particularly their record of the nucleosynthesis of elements in stars and the formation of the solar system. The most important information is contained in presolar grains that condensed in the expanding atmospheres and the explosions of stars and survived the formation of the solar system and in refractory solids that formed in the solar system but carry a presolar isotopic signature. In the study of these objects, ion microprobe analysis has played an exceedingly important role.
Ernst Zinner obtained his undergraduate degree in physics at the Technical University of Vienna, Austria and his Ph.D. in physics at Washington University. He is Research Professor of Physics and Earth and Planetary Sciences of Washington University. He had visiting appointments at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik, Heidelberg, Germany, (1980), Technical University of Vienna (1980-1982), University of Pavia, Italy (1989), University of Bern, Switzerland (1994), and the Australian National University, Canberra, (1995), the Max-Planck-Institut für Kosmochemie, Mainz, Germany (2001, 2003, 2004) and the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France (2006). Zinner is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the Meteoritical Society and a member of AAAS, AGU and Sigma Xi and has served on many committees, among them the Lunar and Planetary Geoscience Review Panel (twice). He received the Antarctic Service Medal of the National Science Foundation (1987), the J. Lawrence Smith Medal of the National Academy of Sciences (1997), the Leonard Medal of the Meteoritical Society (1997) and was elected Geochemistry Fellow of the Geochemical Society and the European Association for Geochemistry ( 1998) and corresponding member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (2002)..
Zinner did his dissertation research in high energy physics on the decay . After joining the Laboratory for Space Sciences he worked on the effects of the interplanetary environment on the moon and meteoritic parent bodies. This work was based on the study of nuclear particle tracks, solar wind implanted elements and micrometeoroid craters. Zinner was the team leader of the Washington University - JSC - MPI Heidelberg - Univ. Munich LDEF interplanetary dust experiment which was launched in April 1984 and retrieved in January 1990. He has worked with ion microprobes since 1974 and, especially since the installation of theCameca IMS 3f instrument in 1982 and the Cameca NanoSIMS in 2000, on isotopic and trace element studies of meteorites and interplanetary dust with implications for early solar system chronology, nucleosynthesis of elements in stars and the history of presolar material.