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PPPL physicist Stuart Hudson begins participating in nationwide DOE leadership program

Stuart Hudson, acting head of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s Theory Department, visited three national laboratories recently as one of 15 national laboratory leaders from a variety of backgrounds selected for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oppenheimer Science and Energy Leadership Program. 

Hudson, a physicist who has been at PPPL for almost 20 years, along with others selected for the third cohort of the program, took part in a one-week kick-off at the end of January that included visits to experimental and computational facilities at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, all in California. Evenings were spent getting to know each other over dinner.  

The idea of the program is to build a  network of future DOE leaders at the national laboratories. The cohort members range from technical group leaders to a general counsel and facilities and operations director. They toured the laboratory facilities and met with directors and research directors to learn about what makes each laboratory unique. 

“This is a great opportunity,” Hudson said. “It was very eye-opening. I have a much better understanding of the national laboratory complex as an entity. I hope that what I learn from participating in this program will help me ensure that PPPL remains at the forefront of fusion technology.” 

Steve Cowley,  PPPL director, congratulated Hudson after he was chosen by a selection committee and finalized by the National Laboratory Director’s Committee. “Congratulations to Stuart for being chosen for this program,” Cowley said. “This is wonderful for him and wonderful for the Lab.” 

This is the third Oppenheimer Cohort. The program was started by Adam Cohen, former DOE deputy undersecretary for science and energy and former deputy director for operations at PPPL, who is now president and CEO of Associated Universities, Inc., and Teeb Al-Samarrai, former White House Fellow and senior advisor to Cohen. Both serve as mentors to the current cohort members along with Lynn Orr, former undersecretary for Science and Energy, and several others. Former physicists Michael Jaworski and Howard Yuh were in the first cohort from 2016 to 2017. 

Hudson said he enjoyed meeting people from other laboratories and discussing common issues. “We have many similar challenges,” Hudson said. “We need to attract motivated people to work in the National Laboratories by highlighting the importance of our research in the areas of discovery science, for the national need, and for the public good.  

Originally from Australia, Hudson received a Ph.D. in theoretical physics, specializing in stellarator magnetic fields, at the Australian National University. After completing his doctorate, he was a research fellow at the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute. He went on to continue his research on stellarators as a research fellow at the Center for Plasma Theory and Computation in the Department of Engineering Physics at the University of Wisconsin. 

Hudson came to PPPL in 2000 to work on the design of the National Compact Stellarator Experiment (NCSX), which was discontinued. His work on the stellarator led to the development of a stellarator optimizing algorithm. 

Hudson said he has enjoyed working at PPPL over the years. “There are a lot of international experimentalists who work here and the breadth and depth of research here is phenomenal,” he said. He added that his work as acting head of Theory while Amitava Bhatacharjee is on sabbatical has given him the opportunity to learn more about his colleagues’ research. His job, he said, is to help them continue that work. “I’m just trying to get out of their way for the most part and to keep the department moving smoothly,” he said.

“For the most part everyone’s on the same team,” Hudson added. “We’re all working for a better understanding of plasma physics and the creation of fusion energy. That’s a principle that ultimately unites us.” 

The Oppenheimer program continues with week-long visits to national laboratories in March, June, July and September.  Hudson and other cohort members will use their visits and consult with laboratory leaders on “think pieces” addressing “big picture institutional challenges facing DOE and the Labs.” They will present the think pieces at a capstone event in November in Washington, D.C. 

PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.



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