In Class

April 13, 2016 at 2:35 pm

Andrew Dewald | Studied Plasma Physics in Northeastern Germany

Senior Andrew Dewald

By Andrew Dewald
B.S. Honors Tutorial College Physics and B.S. HTC Chemistry, Class of 2016

I received a scholarship to study in Germany from the DAAD RISE Germany Program. I learned about the program through Ohio University’s Office of Nationally Competitive Awards.

DAAD RISE offers summer research internships for undergraduate students from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Interns are matched with doctoral students. The interns assist the doctoral students, and in turn, the students serve as the interns’ mentors.

I was matched with a doctoral student from the University of Leipzig who is working on his doctorate at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics, Greifswald branch. Greifswald is north of Berlin on the Baltic Sea.

The Max Planck Institute is funded by the federal German government instead of a university. The Greifswald branch was built beginning in the early 1990s for the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator experiment. A stellarator is a toroidal (doughnut-shaped) device that uses magnetic fields to confine hot plasma in order to sustain controlled nuclear fusion reactions. The ultimate goal of researchers is to control nuclear fusion safely and economically for uses such as generating electricity in power plants.

Learning the Essentials of Plasma Confinement Modeling

During my summer 2015 internship, I learned some basic plasma physics, primarily physics related to plasma confinement by magnetic fields. Plasma is a quasi-neutral gas of ions, electrons, and neutral particles that exhibits collective behavior. The internship project, “Sensitivity Analysis of Wendelstein 7-X Plasma Confinement by Ion Temperature Gradient Turbulence Modeling,” provided a chance for me to explore this field of study on an international scale.

The Wendelstein 7-X stellarator already has been optimized for many problems associated with plasma confinement. However, turbulence within the plasma is still a significant problem.

Developing an understanding of turbulence and its subsequent effects on plasma confinement in the Wendelstein 7-X experiment is important for continued advancement of stellarator research. I worked on simulations that predicted how certain experimental parameters related to turbulence would affect the plasma confinement.

Enjoying the People and Culture

Greifswald town square

Greifswald town square

One challenge I faced during the summer was the language barrier—I couldn’t speak much German. Prior to the start of the internship, I traveled to Berlin and participated in a two-week crash course in German. It wasn’t easy for me to communicate that well with people in Greifswald, although researchers associated with the Institute could speak English.

While I was in Berlin, I enjoyed sight-seeing and visited most of the major museums and other attractions in the former East Berlin, as well as the Reichstag, which was fully restored after German reunification. It was also interesting to see the portions of the Berlin Wall that were purposely left standing.

Andrew Dewald – Intern with DAAD RISE in Germany – senior at Ohio University – Honors Tutorial College – physics and chemistry double major


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