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Anyone can learn about plasma physics through live-streamed course at PPPL

If you’ve always wanted to learn about the science behind plasma physics and fusion energy, you can listen to the very same lectures being offered to college students at PPPL in a weeklong introductory course this week without having to leave your home or office.

The introductory course June 8 to June 12 features top experts from around the country, including many from PPPL, will be streamed live all week from PPPL. So while the students enrolled in PPPL’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) and other internship programs are attending the lectures, you can watch by tuning into http://w3.pppl.gov/scied/oneweek2015/ where you can also find a schedule of the talks. Joining the 32 SULI students will be two students from the Community College Internship program for community college students and another 14 undergraduates working with other researchers at the laboratory.

The course will begin with an introduction to plasma physics by Nat Fisch, director of the Princeton Program in Plasma Physics and a professor in the University’s Department of Astrophysical Sciences, on Monday at 9: 30 a.m. Dennis Whyte, director of the Plasma Science and Fusion Center at MIT, will deliver an introduction to magnetic fusion at 11 a.m.

The program was traditionally run by Fisch, who stepped down this year in light of numerous other research and teaching responsibilities.  Arturo Dominguez, senior program leader in Science Education, took over the responsibility with the help of Deedee Ortiz, program administrator in Science Education. “We’re picking up the baton and really trying to live up to the standards of the great course it has always been,” Dominguez said.  

The streaming is aimed at broadening the audience for the lectures. “We tried to make the course as inclusive as possible,” Dominguez said. “We’ve always had great professors from all over the country and this year I wanted to add even more and to stream the lectures, and in most cases, archive the talks for later.”

For the past 22 years, the program was offered to students through PPPL’s National Undergraduate Fellowship (NUF) in Plasma Physics and Fusion Energy Science, which offered fellowships for students working on research at PPPL and institutions around the country. The NUF fellowship ended this year due to funding issues.

The SULI Internship brings students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to the Laboratory from all over the country. The paid internship pairs students with scientists at PPPL who serve as mentors. Students work on research projects over the summer and present their research results at a poster session at the end of the 10-week program.

This year, 23 of the 32 SULI students will stay at PPPL after the introductory week and the other nine will move to General Atomics in San Diego. Also staying at PPPL will be the two students from the Community College Internship program and the 14 undergraduates working with other researchers.

PPPL speakers include Amitava Bhattacharjee, head of the Theory Department and a professor of Astrophysical Sciences, who will discuss astrophysical plasmas on Friday at 9:30 a.m. Sam Cohen, director of the Program in Plasma Science and Technology and a lecturer with the rank of professor, will discuss “Experimental Methods,” on Tuesday at 11 a.m. Greg Hammet, a principal research physicist and lecturer with the rank of professor, will discuss “Turbulence and Transport” on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. Angie Capece, an adjunct faculty member at the College of New Jersey and former associate research physicist at PPPL, will speak on “Materials Science in Fusion Devices” on Friday at 1:30 p.m.

Dominguez and other members of PPPL’s Science Education Department have experience live-streaming events. Dominguez designed the Remote Glow Discharge Experiment, which allows anyone to view a real physics experiment in real time. Science Education also live-streams the Ronald E. Hatcher Science on Saturday lectures.

Dominguez said he is eager to see the new website and live-streaming in operation. “I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I’m nervous but I think we at Science Education have put a lot of effort into getting this to work just right and for the course to live up to the standards set by Professor Nat Fisch in the past.”


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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