Summer Research Illuminates Plasma Physics

Friday, August 21, 2009

The College of Arts and Sciences offers students a wide variety of opportunities to succeed academically. Ranging from an alumni currently staring in a hit comedy about physicists to a current undergraduate student researching physics, an education at USD provides students with the skills necessary to succeed in a variety of fields.

This summer undergraduate physics major Sam Nogami conducted research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Nogami was one of twenty-five students nationally chosen to participate in the 2009 National Undergraduate Fellowship Program in Plasma Physics and Fusion Energy Sciences. While at MIT, Nogami did research alongside graduate students and faculty on the Levitated Dipole Experiment, an experiment related to the development of fusion energy from magnetically confined plasmas. This summer research introduced Nogami to the latest research on plasma physics.

The Department of Physics provides many opportunities for undergraduates to actively participate in research. Greg Severn, Ph.D., chair of the department, works closely with students over the summer as they conduct research and present their findings at local conferences. It was opportunities like these that led Nogami to choose USD. He wanted a school with a strong science program but a low student to faculty ratio. He knew that the one on one time with faculty would greatly enhance his education. It also gave him the confidence and support he needed to apply for the summer fellowship.

After returning from working on the Levitated Dipole Experiment at MIT, Nogami felt more certain that plasma physics was the right academic path for him. “The opportunity to work with all the graduate students and researchers was great, and it solidified my interest in pursuing physics in graduate school. I was really fortunate to get this exposure to plasma physics and during the summer developed an interest to stay in the field.” With this experience, Nogami will enter his senior year at USD even more prepared for his future graduate school education.

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