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Lt. Governor Guadagno Visits PPPL

PLAINSBORO, N.J. — New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno visited the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) on Monday, Feb. 13, learning about the economic impact of the facility upon the state and gleaning new facts about fusion science. After concluding a tour of the National Laboratory, Guadagno characterized it as being one of the state’s "crown jewels."

"We were delighted to come to PPPL today to learn more about fusion energy research and to see how you inspire and educate the next generation of scientists," Guadagno said. "By gaining insight about your research and a better understanding of what you do, we can promote your work, garner support, and help identify potential collaborators."

The lieutenant governor came to PPPL to discuss the potential for synergy between the laboratory and the state. Her visit included a brief overview of the fusion energy research being conducted at PPPL, a tour of research areas, and demonstrations at PPPL’s science education laboratory, which introduces young students, teachers, and the public to fusion research.

"The visit of Lieutenant Governor Guadagno and her colleagues to PPPL was extremely productive, highlighting the strong synergies between PPPL and the State," said PPPL Director Stewart Prager. "Our discussions brought out the potential for greater PPPL interaction with New Jersey high-tech industry, as well as for partnering with the State to develop new research opportunities."

Guadagno and other members of the group said they viewed PPPL as a "crown jewel" in terms of innovation and cutting edge research in fusion and plasma physics, and its potential for collaborative growth and economic development. The visitors and laboratory officials discussed their shared interest in exploring ways to increase research collaborations and attract startups in the state. They vowed to continue talking about ways to generate ideas and discover how they could support one another.

Leading the group, Prager summarized the laboratory’s research and vision — enabling a world powered by fusion energy and leading discoveries in plasma science and technology. He noted the lab’s associated mission to advance basic plasma research and develop plasma applications and general spin-offs. He cited the Miniature Integrated Nuclear Detection System (MINDS) as a successful spin-off that grew out of fusion research. MINDS, which identifies specific sources of radiation that may be associated with the threat of nuclear terrorism, is a homeland security technology has been transferred to the marketplace.

Prager also discussed how PPPL and fusion serve New Jersey. The lab employs staff spread over 10 legislative districts, procured $6.7M in 277 purchase orders from N.J. industry in 2011, and operates an extensive educational outreach program for the public and students from middle school through college, he said. In addition, ITER, an international fusion experiment being built in France, purchased more than $80M from state industry in 2011. The U.S. is an ITER partner; PPPL is one of the U.S. ITER partners.

Princeton University officials present, including A.J. Stewart Smith, the dean for research, and Robert Durkee, vice president and secretary to the board of trustees, praised Guadagno’s economic development activities. "The lieutenant governor has been a very forceful advocate for economic development in New Jersey, and it was terrific that she was able to come and see for herself everything that is going on and potentially could go on at PPPL," Durkee said.

During a stop at the National Compact Stellarator Experiment (NCSX) components, Arlene White, a principal buyer and small business liaison, heralded the laboratory’s small business program and its successes, and introduced Robert Wronski, representing one of the lab’s area subcontractors, Zenex Precision Products, a small business in Paterson, N.J., which has provided components for the laboratory.

The tour also included the National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX), the laboratory’s flagship fusion experiment, which is being upgraded.

The last time the laboratory hosted such a high-level state government executive was in February, 1995, when then-Gov. Christine Todd Whitman visited PPPL. Guadagno is the first to serve as the state’s lieutenant governor, after the office was created by a constitutional amendment in the middle of the last decade.

Princeton University has managed PPPL since its origins in 1951, when Professor Lyman Spitzer, a founder of the field of plasma physics, initiated the study of fusion at the University. The facility, which was officially named the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in 1961, performs advanced research on fusion energy, an environmentally benign and abundant energy source. PPPL is one of 10 national science labs funded by DOE’s Office of Science.

Guadagno was joined by state economic development experts, including: Caren Franzini, the CEO of the state Economic Development Authority (EDA); Tracye McDaniel, CEO of Choose New Jersey, a nonprofit focused on encouraging statewide economic growth; Kathleen Coviello, director of technology and life sciences for the EDA; and Cathy Scangarella, director of state marketing for the Business Action Center, which is part of the New Jersey Department of State.

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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