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Culham summer school

Univ Naomi Mburu Travel ReportGraduate OMT Travel Report – Naomi Mburu

My name is Naomi Mburu, and I am a first year DPhil in Engineering Science, focusing in nuclear fusion reactor design. This summer, I attended the 56th Annual Culham Plasma Physics Summer School. This summer school took place at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, which is one of the leading fusion research laboratories in the world! Over the two weeks, sixty students from all over the world came together to attend lectures from experts on plasma physics, tour the experimental facilities at Culham, and network with each other.

Nuclear fusion is a relatively new field for me, so I cherished this opportunity to learn about the theoretical underpinnings of this field. My favourite lecture was given by Prof. Philippa Browning from the University of Manchester on Magnetohydronamics. Magnetohydronamics can be used to explain how liquid metals can be controlled by magnetic fields. My research focuses specifically on the behaviour liquid metals in high magnetic fields, to explore whether these liquid metals can be used as a first wall inside of a fusion reactor, so this lecture was very relevant. We also had lectures on the astrophysical applications of plasma physics focused on the science of the sun and other stars (stars are the largest fusion reactors in the universe!). I now have a much broader and more comprehensive understand of my new field.

In addition to lectures, the summer school included several tours of the experiments at Culham and also facilities at the Harwell Campus. At Culham, we visited the Joint European Torus (JET), which is the world record holder for fusion power output, and the Mega Ampere Spherical Tokamak (MAST), which is a spherical fusion device that is used to study plasma instabilities. At the Harwell Campus, we visited the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), which performs a wide range of experiments including the production of high powered lasers to the design of spacecraft for future space missions. Being able to physically see how the information from our lectures is currently being used helped to solidify my understanding of these new topics.

Univ Naomi Mburu Travel Report Lastly, the Culham Summer School provided many opportunities for the students to network with each other and learn about plasma physics work being done around the world. We took part in a poster session, where each student had the opportunity to present the research they are completing in their home institution. During the poster session, I met a student working in a research laboratory in Asia on the use of plasma to improve certain properties of rice. There were also several social opportunities to get to know the others students more informally. There are not many students working in nuclear fusion in my department at Oxford, so I truly valued this opportunity to meet students in my same field.

I would like to thank the University College Old Member’s Trust Graduate Conference and Academic Travel Fund for supporting me to attend this phenomenal training programme. I now have a much better understanding of my new research field and a wider network to engage with throughout my career.

Find out more about the range of travel grants and scholarships available to assist Univ students on our Travel Grants page or read further travel reports.

Published: 20 September 2019

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