NUF plasma and graduate school

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stardust
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NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby stardust » Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:11 pm

I was wondering about the NUF plasma physics program. Has anyone done this program? Is it necessary to get into
a plasma physics graduate program? How did people like the program? I'm trying to decide whether I should participate.
Thanks.

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twistor
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby twistor » Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:31 pm

And NUF is....?

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quizivex
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby quizivex » Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:32 pm

I'm going to Princeton's graduate plasma physics program this fall. When I went to their open house in March, the first prospective student I met had a PPPL shirt on. I'm like, "How do you already have a shirt, haha?" It turns out that of the 6 accepted domestic students, 4 did the NUF program, the 5th was an MIT student who did work at their plasma/fusion center, and I was the black sheep with no plasma background whatsoever.

In the end, I'm not sure if this is typical every year at Princeton and in other American plasma graduate programs. I'm not sure if the reason so many of the incoming students did the NUF program is correlation (good students interested in doing grad school in plasma tend to seek out that program) or causation (they already had their foot in the door by participating in the program and doing good work).

So in short, try to do the NUF... it'll be good for you either way. The experience will be great for you regardless. I'm a little nervous going into the plasma program without any idea what a plasma is (besides a hot ionized gas)... Were you already accepted to the NUF? Or are you considering it for next year?

Anyone else here do the NUF? Any other thoughts?

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butsurigakusha
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby butsurigakusha » Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:38 pm

@quizivex

I am curious how you decided to study plasma physics if you don't really know anything about it?

stardust
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby stardust » Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:43 pm

I was accepted to NUF and I'm deciding. I'm interested in your situation. Why do you think they took you with no plasma
experience? Did the NUF people you met like their programs? I have other competing offers for the summer which are
also hard to get. Aren't there other ways to get an introductory plasma experience?

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quizivex
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby quizivex » Wed Apr 09, 2008 12:09 am

stardust wrote:I was accepted to NUF and I'm deciding. I'm interested in your situation. Why do you think they took you with no plasma experience? Did the NUF people you met like their programs? I have other competing offers for the summer which are also hard to get. Aren't there other ways to get an introductory plasma experience?


Oh good, well I don't know what your other options are. If they're plasma oriented, then there shouldn't be any harm in choosing them over NUF... just pick whatever appeals to you. If they're not plasma oriented, then still do'nt worry, you're not shutting any doors by doing something else. Any summer program looks good. I did one in the Midwest on magnetic nanoparticles, how random is that! I didn't get to talk too much with the other students, but they seemed to like the schools they came from, and they probably liked the NUF since they're still doing plasma and are coming back to PPPL.

You can check my profile in the profile thread (I'm like the 15th or so from the top of the list.) I can't say for sure why I was admitted, like what mattered and what didn't. They did call me before I was officially admitted to ask a few questions, like an informal interview, and I heard the other students say they got called too. The prof specifically mentioned they were impressed with my phyiscs GRE score, the quantity of courses I took and my verbal score. (FYI for everyone: While the verbal GRE isn't too important, still, if there's any number that can set you apart from the other candidates, even something silly like the verbal, it'll help you. So take it seriously if you have time and are good at that stuff.) He was a cool guy. He asked me to describe my research and sadly I had forgotten practically everything about it and sortof blundered the explanations but since that wasn't his area of expertise he probably didn't notice, haha!

As for other ways to get plasma experience, I have no clue. If your school has some, then good, do some there during your semesters but definitely try to do a summer program elsewhere. Some REU's have plasma available. But still, any research program, plasma or not, will look good for you whether you go to grad school in plasma or something else.

bustu... wrote:@quizivex

I am curious how you decided to study plasma physics if you don't really know anything about it?


I sortof had fusion in the back of my mind when I decided I wanted to do something more important with my life back at the end of HS, since to me it really had the potential to change the world. I thought I'd go into business, but figured physics would give me the chance to do someting meaningful, such as fusion. So I basically chose plasma for fusion. I'm interested in other areas of physics too (such as QC, astro), but since I'm kindof impartial and don't know much about anything specific, I figured I'd just go with fusion if I was accepted to Princeton. I kindof liked Princeton in general anyway so it seemed like a no-brainer. But after hearing several discouraging comments from profs at my school saying fusion has no future, the PPPL funding is plummeting... it kindof makes me nervous and uncomfortable during a time I thought I'd be able to enjoy for once in my life, having a relaxing last semester with something to look forward to. So I do'nt know what to think anymore. I hope it works out.

stardust
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby stardust » Wed Apr 09, 2008 12:53 am

Gee, that's encouraging that the profs are saying there's no future. Did they say why there is no future in fusion?

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quizivex
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby quizivex » Wed Apr 09, 2008 1:01 am

Ah GREAT!! Since you apparently haven't heard the same things, it must not really be true.

Sorry, please disregard what I said. I think the opinions of a few people who know nothing about the subject are not worth making decisions over. If you like it, then do fusion. It's so awesome!

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butsurigakusha
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby butsurigakusha » Wed Apr 09, 2008 1:26 am

I think the belief that fusion research has no future is fairly widespread, but I don't know if it is true or not. I heard something to that effect from a fairly well-known physicist a while back, and it prevented me from looking into fusion as a possible research interest.

I think the problem with fusion is that there has been a pretty low return on investment: a lot of money has been spent without much progress, at least in the public eye. However, the potential benefits are enormous, so hopefully this area of research doesn't die. The fact that a problem is really difficult isn't reason to quit pursuing it.

stardust
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby stardust » Wed Apr 09, 2008 2:42 am

Maybe it was this science article:

ENERGY:
Fusion Power: Will It Ever Come?
William E. Parkins

Science 10 March 2006:
Vol. 311. no. 5766, p. 1380
DOI: 10.1126/science.1125657

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will
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby will » Thu Apr 10, 2008 10:06 am

I think part of the frustration with fusion is that scientists have maybe been a little dishonest regarding the progress that's been made. As far as I can tell, useful fusion power has been "20 years away" for much more than 20 years now, and also, as far as I can tell, doesn't really have the peripheral technology developments to show for it.

physicsdude
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby physicsdude » Thu Apr 10, 2008 9:20 pm

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Last edited by physicsdude on Thu Sep 11, 2008 10:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

stardust
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby stardust » Thu Apr 10, 2008 9:44 pm

@physicsdude: I would definitely agree with that - that Caltech physics would blow away PPL. But, they are probably
equating PPL with Princeton physics of which is really isn't the same thing. But, there be other reasons people choose a
school like geography and which coast.

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quizivex
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby quizivex » Thu Apr 10, 2008 9:49 pm

My home and family are less than an hour from Princeton. I'd rather endure slightly chilly winters in Princeton than fry in sizzling 110 degree summer heat in Pasadena 3000 miles away from home.*
*Correction: I've checked pasadena's weather a few times this summer and it seems their average high temp is around 90 with low humidity, not 110 as I originally thought. It's probably a very nice place to live. I didn't know that when I wrote the post but wanted to correct it so it doesn't influence other people's decisions.

As I'm sure physicsdude laughed uncontrollably back when I discussed my experiences on the consequences of the lack of women in physics, I think a campus that's 72% male might not be the best place to avoid staying single forever... Also, an atmosphere with so many serious students in so many different fields (humanities, law, dance, polisci etc...) just appeals to me more than one where everyone's a scientist. While I'm encouraged by the fact that Caltech considered me capable of handling their program and I might love the atmosphere there too, my undergraduate career was not productive enough for me to really think I could walk into walk into Caltech being expected to know "mechanics at about the level of Goldstein's classical mechanics" as indicated on their website and survive considering like 20% of the prodogies that go there don't even finish the PhD. Also, I was more interested in fusion than whatever I'd be working on at any other school, despite the skepticism I've heard from some nonspecialist professors and students. While I'm concerned about these issues, I did not want to make such an important career decision based on other people's random comments. Finally, regardless of the future of fusion, plasma physics has plenty of thriving applications outside of fusion, and having a PhD from the top plasma program in the country won't leave me without options. All of these considerations and more made me convinced Princeton was the ideal place for grad school for me. The financial package was nice, the profs and current students were too. Being at PPPL detached from the life of the campus might be the only downside, but I think with effort I can get involved and have much more of a life there than I did at my undergrad school.

Edit: How can it be so bad if they're the top plasma program in the country???

Edit2: I'm not the only one who made this decision, schmit.paul from last year chose PPPL over Caltech.
Last edited by quizivex on Tue Jul 29, 2008 1:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

excel
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby excel » Thu Apr 10, 2008 9:58 pm

I think a campus that's 72% male might not be the best place to avoid staying single forever...


Although some people will laugh on reading this, I strongly support this reasoning. In general, I think most of us need a healthy life in order to sustain good work.

physicsdude
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby physicsdude » Thu Apr 10, 2008 10:06 pm

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Last edited by physicsdude on Thu Sep 11, 2008 10:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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twistor
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby twistor » Thu Apr 10, 2008 10:13 pm

physicsdude wrote:Quiz,

of course they are not bad. And not that I think Caltech is heaven on earth, I have expressed (and then deleted) my opinions about rankings, value of big names etc. It is just that you didn't even visit there if I remember correctly, and that always is a huge mistake.

Also, as you said yourself, you don't yet know that much physics (this is not an attack, just repeating what you said), so wouldn't it be a bit more prudent to go to a general physics program? I am all for fusion to work, for very selfish reasons (cheaper energy, no CO2), but it is just simply not very likely to happen any time soon, given the history of the field.

As for your weather bit, it is nonsense, I know Princeton summers (and winters). Fall is nice.

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quizivex
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby quizivex » Thu Apr 10, 2008 10:33 pm

Haha good idea, twistor, I thought of doing that during his last onslought but he deleted them too fast.

physicsdude wrote:of course they are not bad. And not that I think Caltech is heaven on earth, I have expressed (and then deleted) my opinions about rankings, value of big names etc. It is just that you didn't even visit there if I remember correctly, and that always is a huge mistake.

If all your comments were as moderated as this one, perhaps we'd get along...

I agree that not even visiting the other options was a questionable choice...

physicsdude wrote:Also, as you said yourself, you don't yet know that much physics (this is not an attack, just repeating what you said), so wouldn't it be a bit more prudent to go to a general physics program? I am all for fusion to work, for very selfish reasons (cheaper energy, no CO2), but it is just simply not very likely to happen any time soon, given the history of the field.

Because all physicists have to specialize eventually, I don't see harm in starting now. The plasma program still takes most of the physics department's first year classes, and the specialized plasma ones are still built from the ground up and I shouldn't be any more unprepared than I'd be anywhere else.

Even facing the reality that fusion is still many years away, I was thinking from the time I got interested in fusion that since I'm only 21, I may get to see it in my lifetime and hopefully make a contribution to it. The importance of alternate energy will become more prominent as this century progresses, and with some fortunate advances, maybe fusion will become a highly funded and popular field again...

physicsdude wrote:As for your weather bit, it is nonsense, I know Princeton summers (and winters). Fall is nice.

I thought Pasadena gets ridiculously hot. Maybe I'm wrong. I like palm trees though.

Edit:
physicsdude (other thread) wrote:And quiz, no offense, but it you can't tell a difference between 40 and 700, good luck with that whole PhD business.

The point of my statement wasn't to compare the quantity of posts we have, but the nature and intent of what we say in our posts.
Last edited by quizivex on Thu Apr 10, 2008 10:54 pm, edited 2 times in total.

physicsdude
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby physicsdude » Thu Apr 10, 2008 10:34 pm

<...>
Last edited by physicsdude on Thu Sep 11, 2008 10:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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grae313
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby grae313 » Thu Apr 10, 2008 11:22 pm

physicsdude wrote:Quiz,

of course they are not bad. And not that I think Caltech is heaven on earth, I have expressed (and then deleted) my opinions about rankings, value of big names etc. It is just that you didn't even visit there if I remember correctly, and that always is a huge mistake.

Also, as you said yourself, you don't yet know that much physics (this is not an attack, just repeating what you said), so wouldn't it be a bit more prudent to go to a general physics program? I am all for fusion to work, for very selfish reasons (cheaper energy, no CO2), but it is just simply not very likely to happen any time soon, given the history of the field.

As for your weather bit, it is nonsense, I know Princeton summers (and winters). Fall is nice.


Oh. My. God.

A completely decent and reasonable post. By physicsdude. Hell just froze over :D

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Ren
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby Ren » Fri Apr 11, 2008 12:08 am

back to NUF PPPL,
@stardust
I'm just curious. Where's your project gonna be at? Is it at Princeton?
I've been wondering if this program is hard to get into.

I am quite interested in plasma physics as well, but i'm more towards plasma astrophysics.

Geoff Olynyk
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby Geoff Olynyk » Fri Apr 11, 2008 3:00 pm

Quizivex. re: your Wed. Apr 9 4:09 am comment.

I've been wrestling with many of the same doubts you talk about here ("is fusion ever going to work or am I dedicating myself to a futile cause?"), but think of it this way. You're going to be a Ph.D. physicist from Princeton (an instantly recognizable name in the USA). You're not going to go without a technically interesting job, even if it isn't in fusion.

- plasma processing of materials
- astrophysical plasma research
- high-end fluid dynamics codes and modelling
- etc.

And at the very least, Richard Majeski told me that many of the PPPL grads end up as quants on Wall St, so there's always that option :) Personally I'm planning to focus on not just fusion technology but also try to get into some interesting collaborations on energy policy so that I have a backup plan.

If you have an interest in energy beyond just fusion [as I suspect you do from your posts] then I have a feeling that as a physicist, you could market yourself quite well as a technical analyst for someone like Juniper or McKinsey or whatever. Or the civil service: here in Ontario, the annual list of civil servants earning over $100,000/yr just came out for 2007, and of 42,000 bureaucrats being paid this much, 6,000 of them were in the energy field. I assume it's much the same in the USA.

(For reference: I am the Canadian who didn't make it to the PPPL tour. I'll be at MIT NSE in Sept 2008.)

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quizivex
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Re: NUF plasma and graduate school

Postby quizivex » Fri Apr 11, 2008 3:22 pm

Thanks for the encouraging words. I saw your name on the admitted student list when I visited PPL and at that point thought I remembered seeing a post by someone of a similar name on the forum but wasn't sure of the spelling so couldn't do a search... Congrats on the acceptances.

It's nice to see I'm not the only one with these same thoughts. I really hope fusion takes off in the upcoming years and people no longer have to wrestle with such doubts. But I'm sure we'll both have a palatable array of career choices after graduating regardless of what happens with fusion. Good luck at MIT.




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