Jonathan Squire, a 2015 graduate of the Princeton Program in Plasma Physics, wins the 2022 Thomas H. Stix early career award

Written by
John Greenwald
Sept. 26, 2022

Jonathan Squire, a senior research fellow at the University of Otago, New Zealand, who earned his Ph.D. as a graduate student in the Princeton Program in Plasma Physics in 2015, has won the 2022 Thomas H. Stix Award for outstanding early career contributions to plasma physics research. The graduate program, a division of the Princeton University Department of Astronomical Sciences, is housed in the U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. 

The award from the American Physical Society-Division of Plasma Physics (APS-DPP) was established in 2013 to honor standout industry wide achievement in plasma physics. The honor, to be presented at the APS-DPP annual meeting in October, includes $3,000 and a certificate and is named for the late Thomas H. Stix, the pioneering plasma researcher who founded the graduate plasma physics program at PPPL.  

The certificate recognizes Squire “for theoretical contributions to our understanding of plasma waves and turbulence in astrophysical plasmas and the solar wind, and for the discovery and characterization of a broad class of instabilities in dusty astrophysical plasmas."

For Squire the recognition is “such a nice surprise, and I feel honored to be associated with this impressive list of previous recipients,” he said. “Research is a team game, and I've been lucky to have fantastic mentors and colleagues, both at PPPL, where the graduate training was so thorough and inspiring, then later as a postdoc at Caltech and here at Otago. It's a real privilege to have had these opportunities, and to have had such a fun time doing interesting science at the same time!”

Weird plasma properties

In his award-winning early career research, “I'm broadly interested in the behavior of plasmas in astrophysical environments, particularly how some of their weird properties influence processes that we can observe,” he said. “A big interest recently has been how weakly collisional plasmas – those in which particles only rarely collide with each other – behave when they are stirred by gravitational or magnetic forces.”

Said Amitava Battacharjee, a PPPL physicist and professor of astrophysical sciences who was Squire's thesis advisor: "Jono is a rising star in plasma astrophysics. Within a half-dozen years of graduation from the Princeton Program in Plasma Physics, he has made incisive and original contributions to a wide range of topics including instabilities and turbulence in weakly collisional astrophysical and solar plasmas as well as dusty plasmas in addition to his seminal contributions to the generation of large-scale magnetic fields in accretion disks that earned him the APS Marshall N. Rosenbluth Outstanding Dissertation Award in 2017."

Squire’s past honors include the 2014 Charlotte Elizabeth Procter Honorific Fellowship from Princeton; a 2015 Sherman Fairchild Postdoctoral Fellowship from Caltech; and the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship from the Royal Society of New Zealand. Preceding his Stix award were the 2014 Stix honor for Ilya Dodin, a principal research physicist at PPPL and a 2005 graduate of the Princeton Program in Plasma Physics, and Will Fox, a PPPL astrophysicist and MIT graduate honored in 2019. 

When Squire relaxes from theoretically probing astrophysical plasma he enjoys playing the cello, which he took up at the age of eight, and is a passionate rock climber and mountaineer in his native New Zealand. His web page at the University of Otago displays him in climbing gear on a mountainside and welcomes email from anyone interested in joining his research team.

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