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Best subjects to study fusion plasma by.

  1. Aug 12, 2015 #1

    I have been doing software engineering for over 20 years and I feel like it's time for a change before I get too ancient. I have been following and reading about plasma fusion for a number of years now and I would like to study this and be able to do some research in either a Ph.D program (thinking U.Washington [because I live in Puget Sound) or U. Wisconsin), or a Master's program on Applied Physics and work on actual reactors

    I would like to leverage my skills in Computational Physics as well. I don't know if there's a need for that.

    Can anyone who has been in the industry, or Academic studies of this subject, offer any advice on what path would be the best for the current needs? Also, what specific undergraduate studies should I take (other than electromagnetics) that would benefit me the most towards achieving the goal.

  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 12, 2015 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  4. Aug 13, 2015 #3
    There really aren't many fusion reactors around, and none of them really "work" in the sense of generating energy efficiently afaik.

    You may want to look into the National Ignition Facility which does some work in the area I believe.

    Generally speaking based on surveys of various programmes as a result of my own interest in the area, the following seem to be generally useful:

    Electromagnetism, as you mentioned, this probably is one of the most important ones. Additionally; Fluid Mechanics, Complex Variables, some Quantum or Nuclear Physics may be useful depending on exactly what area you're looking at. Maybe partial differential equations. Also a general course on plasma physics, which probably has some or all of these as prerequisites, might be helpful to ensure you're interested and committed. You'd probably normally take this in the course of your grad work though. You might be able to take complex variables or nuclear physics in your grad work.

    From an energy generation stand point some understanding of electrical power engineering and/or heat transfer might be helpful. From a fusion materials point of view some background in materials science is probably useful. An upper division optics/photonics/lasers course might be interesting with regards to ignition mechanisms.

    Beyond these, standard minimum undergrad prep; basic physics, maths and maybe some chemistry. Which is to say, physics through modern physics, maths through vector calculus and differential equations (linear algebra would be helpful but as long as you're good with general matrix algebra formal LA isn't so essential). Most gen chem sequences I think cover some aspects of nuclear chemistry which is relevant, but you probably don't need detailed knowledge on this to start out.

    Do keep in mind, I'm not actually a student in this area, just a (potentially) prospective student having looked through various programmes and such. For the most accurate information you're best off contacting the relevant programmes and asking.

    You could probably use your computational skills well as there's quite a lot of computational modelling involved as I gather.
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