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I want to research nuclear fusion

  • Thread starter parkerxw
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I am currently a high school student in Hawaii, and I am interested in R&D of nuclear fusion for practical use. I just find it so fascinating that one day we could possibly harness unlimited power with very few consequences. Because of that I wanna get advice on a few things.

1) What should I major in for undergrad ? I was thinking of getting a BNE at MIT/Michigan/Penn/etc with electives that have a high emphasis on Applied physics or possibly minor in such.

2) What should I do for graduate school? I was thinking along the lines of a doctorate in NE at MIT or Michigan as I find they have a higher emphasis on Plasma physics than other graduate programs for NE. Another path I'm thinking of is a Doctorate in Physics at Yale/Princeton as there research in fusion like PPPL is very intriguing.

(Note) - However I understand that whatever I major/study in will not give a clear shot for nuclear fusion because it's not quite ready for commercial use as of now considering that containing the high amounts of energy outweigh the net outcome of creating a fusion reaction. So I'm asking what will give me the best chance for R&D for commercial use of Nuclear Fusion

3)What are some resources that I can use now to further my understanding in Nuclear Fusion?
I am well aware that I don't know nearly as much as most people talking about nuclear fusion on these forums, but I am highly motivated to research Nuclear Fusion. I believe it's gonna solve some of the biggest problems we have today, sparks an interest to pioneer that field of science, and live an above average- comfortable life. So it would be a dream come true to study this topic and be able to apply it later in the future.

Any way enough with the tangent, any recommendations/tips/advice will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
 

berkeman

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Welcome to the PF. :smile:

It's great to see that you have such a strong interest in science already. I think the simplest answer to your question about what you can do now is for you to take all the math and science classes that you can. What math classes have you taken already? Have you studied calculus yet? If your high school offers only basic calculus and physics classes, do you have the option of taking community college classes through your high school? If so, finish your basic calculus and physics classes in high school during your junior year, and take the more advance classes at CC during your senior year.

Stay curious and enjoy the ride! :smile:
 

berkeman

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BTW, I have always enjoyed looking ahead in textbooks for subjects that I will be learning soon. I still remember when I used to buy my textbooks for each semester at college -- I would skim through them there in the bookstore to see what I would be studying (and understanding fairly soon). It gave me goosebumps to see the cool math and concepts that I would be studying... :smile:

Here is a classic text that you will likely be studying in college if you continue to pursue your interests in nuclear fusion. It's a text about plasma physics, which is at the core (pun intended) of magnetic confinement fusion. Maybe see if your high school library can arrange an inter-library loan for you, or see if it is on the shelves of your local CC where you can go and look through it. If you have had a year of calculus already, it will look sort of familiar, and you can start to appreciate the math and physics that you will be studying (and understanding) soon... :smile:


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DEvens

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Fusion is likely to require a lot of different specialties. So reach in and grab one and go for it.

Plasma physics of course. But also a lot of material science. And radiation physics, from the plasma physics side, the material science side, and the health and protection side.

There are also plenty of people required in related technical fields. They will need chemists to study the results on both the working materials and the structures of the reactor. They will need instrumentation to detect what is going on. They will need computing, computing, and more computing. Probably they will need people who can run just about any high-tech device from an electron microscope to a spectro-photometer.

There are also going to be lots of engineers. Probably some fairly well known things like people to design, build, and run heat exchangers and hopefully turbines to generate electricity. But there will also be some keen stuff like design and construction of honking-big magnets in exotic configurations, with huge vacuum chambers, and heat exchangers built into the walls. That will be a keen design problem, even after they get the bugs out of making the plasma.

So load up on as much math and computing as you can. And grab as much plasma physics as you can. But fill out your course load with any related fields that you find interesting. And keep going to https://arxiv.org/ and looking for fusion related papers. Look for the paper that "glimmers." That's the one that you think "I could have done that and it would have been pretty keen." That will tell you what to be studying the hardest.

And don't neglect the lab courses. Being able to find your way down a lab bench without tripping or setting it on fire is going to be a major plus. Also being able to report the results in a clear and understandable manner also. Also being able to explain to a room full of colleagues.
 
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Thank you all for the advice. It was really helpful.
 
I was in the same position as you when I was your age. I'm now considering applying for a PhD in magnetic confinement fusion.

The best bet is simply a physics major. Perhaps if you're committed try to find institutions that specialise in plasma physics. For example, my university (UK) has a large-ish plasma physics department and the course offers 3 modules specifically on plasma physics (and another 2 which have parts involved with this field). This could be a useful advantage, as many other universities don't offer any modules in plasma physics.

Most PhD interviewers will assume zero knowledge of plasma physics beforehand, so reading ahead on these topics and studying for modules in them will only help. Most of plasma physics will be applied electromagnetic theory, so by your 2nd year you should have a very strong grasp on vector calculus, Maxwell's equations, waves in plasmas, solving partial differential equations, modelling PDEs in programming languages (C, C++, Python).

I just attended a summer school at the CCFE in Culham, Oxford, specifically on nuclear fusion and plasma physics - all lecturers said that right now is the most exciting time plasma physics has ever had, with ITER going online within 5 years and JET being upgraded this year.
 

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