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Lee Honored for Work in Plasma Simulations

Wei-li Lee, a Principal Research Physicist in the Theory Department at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), has received the 2011 John Dawson Prize for Numerical Simulation of Plasmas. The prize recognizes Lee for his seminal contributions to computational plasma science, specifically for his work in gyrokinetic simulations in plasma physics.

The award cites for Lee for “laying foundations of modern simulations of plasma turbulence, in particular, the discovery of gyrokinetic simulation models and perturbative simulation methods with successful applications on leadership class computing platforms worldwide.”

“We are all delighted that Wei-li Lee has received this most well-deserved prize,” said William Tang, Director of PPPL’s Fusion Simulation Program. “Dr. Lee is internationally recognized as the founder of the very prominent Gyrokinetic Particle Simulation method — a powerful approach which has made possible modern particle-in-cell global simulations of magnetically-confined plasmas in realistic 3-D toroidal systems. This innovative technique for studying plasma turbulence has led to exciting new discoveries with successful applications on leadership class computing platforms worldwide.”

Lee received this lifetime achievement award at the International Conference on Numerical Simulation of Plasmas (ICNSP), held September 7-9 in Long Branch, N.J. He is the only 2011 recipient of the ICNSP award, which was created in 2003.

“The gyrokinetic method has hugely advanced our ability to compute, understand, and even control the complex turbulence in fusion plasmas. As founder of the particle method of gyrokinetics, Wei-li Lee has been a pioneer in this effort and richly deserves this recognition,” said PPPL Director Stewart Prager.

Riccardo Betti, who headed the PPPL Theory Department this year, said he was happy to learn that Lee received this prestigious award. “His [Lee’s] pioneering work on the Gyrokinetic Particle method has led to the development of powerful computational tools to study turbulence in magnetic fusion devices,” Betti said.

Lee’s work in numerical simulations involves employing algorithms and computer codes to help in understanding the complex behavior of magnetized fusion plasmas, and the turbulence that affects plasma stability and confinement.

Lee received a bachelor’s degree from the National Taiwan University, a master’s degree from Duke University in North Carolina, and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University in Illinois. After working as an accelerator physicist at Fermi Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., for four years, he joined PPPL’s Theory Department in 1974. He became a Fellow of the American Physical Society’s Division of Plasma Physics in 1992 and a Distinguished Research Fellow at PPPL in 1998, and is the author of more than 100 scientific papers in magnetic fusion and accelerator research. He has trained many students and post-doctoral researchers, and has been an adjunct professor at Columbia University in the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics.

U.S. Department of Energy
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.

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