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Prestigious Fellowship Powers USD Physics Student

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

physics-april-09-007University of San Diego student Sam Nogami might catch some rays or ride a few waves this summer. But he won’t be doing it at the beach.

Nogami, a junior majoring in physics, has been chosen to participate in the prestigious 2009 National Undergraduate Fellowship Program in Plasma Physics and Fusion Energy Sciences. More than 150 of the nation’s elite science students applied for the fellowship, out of which fewer than 25 are chosen each year. Nogami also is the first student from USD ever chosen for the program.

A native of Denver, Colo., Nogami said he’s always been interested in science, but “the passion my professors have for teaching the subject is what really convinced me to study physics.”

He will spend one week at Princeton University’s Plasma Physics Laboratory for a crash course in plasma physics and then spend eight to nine weeks doing research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Princeton laboratory, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, is looking for ways to use fusion — the process that powers the sun and the stars as light atoms fuse or join together — into creating useable sources of energy such as electricity.

Nogami said he’s excited about becoming part of this cutting-edge research. “I believe fusion energy could become a viable and important energy source.”

After Princeton, Nogami will go to the M.I.T. Plasma and Fusion Center, where he will be working on the Levitated Dipole eXperiment in the area of plasma confinement, which involves looking for ways to keep plasma, the fuel for the sun and stars, dense and hot long enough to undergo fusion.

Nogami, who hopes to become a physics professor, expressed gratitude to the Physics Department for all it’s done to help make the fellowship possible for him.

— Liz Harman

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