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Some students come into the high school internship program at PPPL already harboring an interest in plasma physics, knowing exactly what research they want to work on and what they want to learn. Others come in not really knowing what to expect. Josh Bloom, a graduating senior from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North, falls into the latter category, coming into PPPL with not necessarily any particular interest in working with plasma physics, but just a desire to make the most out of his high school’s Senior Option program, in which qualifying students are granted the opportunity to spend a portion of their last semester in professional internships. 

Josh’s interests in science were not tailored specifically to plasma physics, but he was still able to learn a great deal about the diversity of options available to him in this field. He was granted the opportunity to work on the plasma speaker project as well as explore some new interests he developed while in the lab. He had a hands-on experience with the speaker, which functions similar to how lightning, a form of naturally-occurring plasma, creates the sound of thunder. The increase in pressure and temperature caused by the plasma produces an expansion of the surrounding air, triggering a collision of hot air and cold air and creating a sonic shock wave. In this project, Josh was testing the sound quality coming off of different metals, including tungsten, copper, and 24-karat gold. 

While exploring the equipment in the lab, Josh also discovered the 3D printer and became interested in the 3D printing process. He taught himself how to create 3D prototypes using AutoCAD (Computer Aided Design), the software used to design 3D objects, and began by doing some simple recreational printing. Soon, his advisor came up with projects he could do to study the strength of the plastic used to create the 3D models, setting him to work on performing various tests to get an idea of the practical uses of 3D printing.

Although he admits that the first few weeks of the internship were overwhelming, being surrounded by unfamiliar equipment in an unfamiliar field of study, especially in a potentially intimidating government facility, Josh found himself quickly becoming comfortable in the lab and having an invaluable scientific research experience.

Written by: Constance Kaita, 

Journalism Intern , Science Education Department

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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