First-Year Undergraduate Nuclear Fusion Advice for Experience?

In summary, a freshman mechanical engineering major at Georgia Tech is considering switching to engineering physics in order to gain experience for an internship in the fusion industry. He is reading a third-year GaTech Fusion textbook and is having trouble determining where to gain experience. He asks an expert for advice. The expert tells the freshman to take as many math and physics courses as possible and to focus on electricity and magnetism (E&M). The freshman decides to major in engineering physics and minor in physics in order to have all the bases covered.
  • #1
hdt21
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TL;DR Summary
I want to work towards getting a nuclear fusion internship (i.e. via SULI), but what is the best thing to do to gain experience as a college freshman without experience?
Hello! I'm a newbie here, so I apologize if I posted this in the wrong area of if this has already been answered.

I'm a Mechanical engineering major at Georgia Tech (but I'll probably switch to Engineering Physics). Nonetheless, I'm very intrigued by the prospect of nuclear fusion and would like to get involved in the industry. I've been looking at internships, and it appears that one of the best options would be to attain an internship through the US DOE's Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI), among some other options. I read that employers of interns will examine applicants' qualifications in regard to their achievements relevant to the fields they plan to study.

Since I'm going to be a first-year come this fall, I'm curious as to how I can get a leg-up on the competition by gaining that experience. I've already begun reading a third-year GaTech Fusion textbook, but I'm having trouble determining where I can gain real experience/qualifications. Does anyone have any ideas?
 
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  • #2
I was lucky my college still had a reactor. Always wondered about the accelerators and high energy physics lab was right under the dorms. DOE will need a background check. Have you built a fusor yet? (Simple D+D=He3+n fusion do-it-yourself project, see youtube.). University of California had a Navy contract to scale up fusor concept. My friend, physics grad student did liquid Helium and supercontuctor studies, went to work for a computer chipmaker, specializing in thermal design. Where are you going to school? Assume you want an internship near your studies.
 
  • #3
I'm going to Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

No, I haven't built a fusor yet, but I was actually thinking about doing that! I read that one of the founders of Commonwealth Fusion Systems did that when he was younger, so I guess that would be a cool side project. It looks kinda dangerous? But I'm guessing there are ways to make it safer that I'll figure out. Thanks!

Well, an internship near Atlanta would be nice, but I wouldn't mind if it was far either. What I'm really wondering is how can I gain experience to be able to get the top-notch internship positions because, from what I can tell, fusion internships are in short supply
 
  • #4
If you are really interested in fusion, mechanical engineering is not the right degree for you. You should consider switching to engineering physics, electrical engineering, or even physics. Prepare to go all the way with a PhD.

As a freshmen, take as many math and physics courses that you can. Plasmas are all about electricity and magnetism (E&M). You won't get E&M courses in mechanical engineering.
 
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  • #5
That makes sense. The problem with getting an Engineering physics degree is that at Georgia Tech (where I'm going) it's called "Applied Physics," and it's mostly just Physics courses. Georgia Tech has some courses on nuclear fusion itself, but it's classified under nuclear engineering. My logic was that getting a NE degree wouldn't be the best idea in the event that I get fired or want to change fields because the job market is stagnant. Hence, I chose to major in ME (specialization: nuclear) and minor in Physics to cover all of the bases.

As an engineer, I might be more compelled to focus on the designing / engineering aspects of a fusion reactor rather than the actual plasma physics within, explaining why I would go into NE, ME, or EE. Is that a logical line of reasoning?

Thanks for the advice! I've heard from two sources now that E&M is the way to go, so I'll definitely make a note of that. I do hope to obtain a PhD as well, but probably after I get a job (so I can afford grad school).
 

1. What is nuclear fusion and why is it important for first-year undergraduate students to learn about?

Nuclear fusion is the process of combining two or more atomic nuclei to form a heavier nucleus. It is the same process that powers the sun and other stars. It is important for first-year undergraduate students to learn about because it is a promising source of clean and sustainable energy that has the potential to meet the world's growing energy needs.

2. What advice do you have for first-year undergraduate students interested in studying nuclear fusion?

First and foremost, it is important to have a strong foundation in physics and mathematics. Additionally, it is helpful to have a curiosity and passion for the subject, as well as a willingness to collaborate and work in a team. Taking courses in plasma physics, nuclear engineering, and materials science can also be beneficial.

3. Are there any research opportunities for first-year undergraduate students interested in nuclear fusion?

Yes, there are research opportunities available for first-year undergraduate students interested in nuclear fusion. Many universities have undergraduate research programs or summer internships specifically focused on fusion energy. It is also possible to get involved in research through clubs and organizations on campus.

4. What are some common challenges that first-year undergraduate students may face when studying nuclear fusion?

Some common challenges that first-year undergraduate students may face when studying nuclear fusion include the complex and interdisciplinary nature of the subject, the need for advanced mathematics and physics knowledge, and the high cost of experimental facilities and equipment. Time management and balancing coursework with research can also be a challenge.

5. What are some resources available for first-year undergraduate students to learn more about nuclear fusion?

There are many resources available for first-year undergraduate students to learn more about nuclear fusion. Some options include textbooks, online courses, scientific journals, and conferences. Many universities also have fusion research centers or labs that offer seminars and workshops for students to learn more about the field.

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