Fusion Engineering Conference
Old Members Trust Graduate Conference and Academic Travel Fund Report – Naomi Mburu
My name is Naomi Mburu, and I am a first year DPhil in Engineering Science and my supervisor is Dr Peter Ireland. My DPhil project is in the area of nuclear fusion reactor engineering design. Nuclear fusion reactors currently have inside walls made from solid metals, but research is developing to study the potential use of liquid metal for the inside wall to improve the operation of the fusion reactor. My research focuses on experimentally studying the flow of liquid metal free-surfaces under nuclear-fusion relevant conditions. In June, I was able to travel to the USA to meet with research collaborators and to attend the Symposium on Fusion Engineering. It was a busy and productive trip which has given me a better grasp of all the work currently being done in my field.
My trip began with a visit to Princeton University to visit some research groups in the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). First, I met with Dr Egemen Kolemen’s research group that is doing similar work to what I am working on for my DPhil. They showed me their experimental apparatus and explained their data collection methods, which helped me gain a more comprehensive view of how I can efficiently construct my experimental apparatus at Oxford. I also met with Dr Rajesh Maingi who is performing novel experiments with introducing flowing liquid metal surfaces in a fusion device in China. Additionally, I met with Dr. Andrei Khodak who is an expert in computational modelling of liquid metals to discuss my plans for developing a computational model to accompany my experiments. Lastly, I was able to tour the fusion devices at the PPPL.
Following my visit to Princeton, I flew to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida for the Symposium on Fusion Engineering. During this conference, I attended a day-long course on plasma material interactions, presented my research during a poster session, and spoke on a panel about diversity in the workplace. I attended many presentations and networked with students, professors, and industrial professionals. My favourite part of the conference was the opportunity to learn about possible career trajectories for a young person in fusion.
The final leg of my journey involved a visit to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). I have been collaborating remotely with a research group at UIUC led by Dr Daniel Andruczyk to plan for a series of experiments I plan to perform on their fusion device over the next two years. This was my first time visiting their research facilities, so I had the great opportunity to make necessary measurements and develop a more tangible understanding of the device I will be using later this year. I was also able to have productive conversations with the other students in research group and see the exiting work they are doing.
Apart from the research-related work done during my trip, I was also able to spend a few days exploring each state and meeting with old friends. I visited family near Princeton, a local museum in Illinois, and, of course, the beach in Florida!
I want to thank University College and their OMT Graduate Conference and Academic Travel Fund for helping to fund this trip for me. It was a great opportunity to truly engage with the global nuclear fusion research community. I have returned with a much more comprehensive understanding of the progress and future work that needs to be done in my field, and I was able to form useful connections that are already materialising into useful research collaborations.