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International award for University of York scientist

Posted on 18 November 2013

University of York physicist Professor Howard Wilson has received an international award for research excellence from The American Physical Society (APS).

Together with three American colleagues – Dr John Ferron, Dr Thomas Osborne and Dr Philip Synder, from General Atomics, San Diego, California, he received the 2013 John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research.


Fred Skiff, Thomas H Osborne, Michael Turner, Philip Snyder, Howard Wilson and John R Ferron (courtesy of APS)

Plasma is a form of ionised gas, and is abundant in the Universe – stars, including the Sun, are in a plasma state, as is the solar wind, the Northern Lights and lightning. Plasma can be relatively cool, such as in a modern television set or a fluorescent light bulb, or extremely hot, such as in the core of the Sun.

The award recognises the scientists’ outstanding work into hot plasmas employed in the quest for fusion energy. Their research provides a deep understanding of the processes that trigger plasma eruptions that can occur in tokamak fusion devices. If uncontrolled, these eruptions, which are like miniature "solar flares", could damage future tokamaks, like ITER.

ITER is the next step international fusion device that will address the final scientific questions for fusion energy. The long-standing collaboration of the recipients has identified the mechanism that drives these eruptions, which then helps to guide control mechanisms for plasma eruptions in ITER, and optimise its fusion performance.

It is a great honour to receive this prestigious award for a research programme which, over the years, has benefited from major contributions from many exceptional fusion plasma scientists

Professor Howard Wilson

Presented at the APS’s annual meeting of the Division of Plasma Physics, in Denver, Colorado, the award includes a certificate and $5,000 to be divided equally by the recipients.

Professor Wilson said: It is a great honour to receive this prestigious award for a research programme which, over the years, has benefited from major contributions from many exceptional fusion plasma scientists. Our understanding of plasma eruptions, which has grown out of adventurous, exciting fundamental plasma science, is likely to have a real impact on how the fusion reactors of the future will operate."

Professor Wilson is the Director of the York Plasma Institute (YPI) at the University of York. Part of York’s Department of Physics, the YPI is a collaboration between the University and the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Professor Wilson also leads the EPSRC-funded Fusion Doctoral Training Network, which is a collaborative PhD programme across magnetic and inertial fusion energy, involving the Universities of York, Durham, Liverpool, Manchester and Oxford together with institutions such as the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and holds a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award.

Notes to editors:

  • The citation on the 2013 John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research reads: “For experiments and theory that explained the limiting edge instabilities of high performance tokamak plasmas, including the key role of peeling-ballooning modes, thus enabling quantitative predictions of the edge pressure in fusion plasmas.”
  • For more information on Professor Howard Wilson and his research interests visit www.york.ac.uk/physics/people/wilson/
  • More information on the York Plasma Institute at the University of York at www.york.ac.uk/ypi
  • More information on the Department of Physics at the University of York at www.york.ac.uk/physics
  • More information on The American Physical Society (APS) at www.aps.org/
  • More information on the John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research at www.aps.org/programs/honors/awards/dawson.cfm
  • More information on the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) at www.epsrc.ac.uk

Contact details

Caron Lett
Press Officer

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