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Physics How large scale is plasma physics

  1. Mar 4, 2009 #1
    how "large scale" is plasma physics

    I'm a physics undergrad right now, and I'm trying to pick out classes I want to take to get a better idea of what I'd like to do in grad school. I've wanted to work on fusion/plasma physics for a long time, and right now I'm reading a book on the history of fusion. It mentions that the large-scale experiments like JET, TFTR, etc. are so large that they're pretty much bureaucracies, with fleets of physicists, engineers, administration, etc. This doesn't really appeal to me at all! I do research in a nonlinear dynamics lab right now, and I really like how my entire experiment fits on a tabletop, and that I'm only working with two other people. So, my question is, does this kind of "tabletop physics" exist in plasma physics? I'm not dead-set on doing fusion research; I'm really interested in other aspects of plasma physics too, such as plasma processing and plasma thrusters, but it would definitely put a damper on my romantic idea of what plasma physics is.

    What about theorists? Do theorists in plasma physics work in bureaucracy too?

    While I'm at it, what other branches of physics have opportunities to do tabletop experiments? I know condensed matter is one, and my Electronics class this semester is getting me rather interested in semiconductor physics, so I might take a class in solid-state physics at next opportunity.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 5, 2009 #2
    Re: how "large scale" is plasma physics

    I guess what you're asking is how 'hands-on' might one be in a plasma physics collaboration? Plasma physics covers an extremely vast area of physics so there's plenty of different things to consider, it really depends if you want to get experimental in the sense of fusion reactors that you mention, I.e tokamak etc. Other plamsa areas to consider in a theoretical or observational sense would be: plasma cosmology, plasma studies around neutron stars (and the related areas of supernovae), stellar astronomy, optical experiments with plasmas (plasmas have interesting EM response properties).

    Finding an area that appeals to you specifically would be a start to answeing some of your questions.
  4. Mar 5, 2009 #3
    Re: how "large scale" is plasma physics

    I know a guy who "defected" to my area from a plasma physics graduate program. He claims that plasma physics is basically a dead field. All the well known people are much older. There haven't been any really exciting breakthroughs in a long time.... Or so he says anyway....
  5. Mar 6, 2009 #4
    Re: how "large scale" is plasma physics

    hmmmm plasma physics. We had a lesson this year concerning plasma usage in creating microelectronic devices in general, and this semester we have a special class only concerning plasma matter. Well i found a lot of chemistry there so i am not sure if i pick it this semester. From the stuff I've seen there are lot of types of plasma reactors and they're quite difficult to operate in general. A team in the research institute we have lessons for example is like 10 people of various backgrounds (chemical engineers, physicists, material science e.t.c) so i guess most plasma physics research groups can be quite big...
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