Pacific Physics alum’s article – cover story of Physics Today!


In a previous blog post we congratulated our alum, David Pace (B.S. Physics 2002) for receiving the prestigious Landau-Spitzer Award given by the American Physical Society (APS) for his contributions to understanding the physics of plasmas and fusion.

Now Dr. Pace’s article, written with Drs. William W. Heidbrink and Michael A, Van Zeeland titled Keeping fusion plasmas hot is the feature story appearing on the October 2015 cover of Physics Today, the monthly professional journal of the APS. Pacific students and others on campus can access the article by clicking the title link above. Access is free through our library’s subscription when accessing the article from a computer on campus.

David is the first author of the article, which is about understanding the very complex interactions of plasma particles with the strong electromagnetic fields and waves inside the toroidal (bagel-shaped) fusion reactor, called a Tokamak. In the fusion reactions of deuterium and tritium, high energy alpha particles are produced which heat the plasma and help to maintain thermonuclear temperatures required for a self-sustained reactor. However, as the plasma heats, energetic ions can leak from the “magnetic bottle“, which can lower the reaction yield, ablate material from the tokamak walls polluting the plasma, and even damage the reactor vessel.

The article in Physics Today reviews David’s and his collaborator’s work on understanding these complex wave-particle dynamics that will help researchers better control this energy loss mechanism in reactors such as the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) currently under construction in the south of France. In fact, if you visit ITER’s website, David’s article is featured as one of the rotating header images/links for the international project.

Wow! Cover of Physics Today   AND   the top of the ITER webpage!  

Congratulations Dr. David Pace  from all of us here at UoP!

I expect it won’t be long before David’s picture is on the “cover of the Rolling Stone”.
(for my students, that’s a reference to a 70’s song by Dr. Hook, from when I was your age)


Monthly Physics Social – Tuesday Oct 6 @ 3pm

Hey Everyone!

Tuesday, Oct. 6, is the monthly Physics Social, where Physics and Engineering-Physics majors and minors get together with faculty and eat homemade treats, talk about news and issues, and hope to win the raffle prize.

Physics Dept. T-Shirt
The retiring Physics Department T-Shirt. The new winning design could be yours!!

On Tuesday’s agenda:

  • Time for the New Physics Department T-Shirt Design Contest !!!

Learn the details and get your Picasso on.
The winner will receive a cool prize, the admiration of your besties, and divine mathematical inspiration while taking the GRE.
Ok. Well, the first two for sure.

  • Notebooks are here.


Last time we took orders for gorgeous Moleskin notebooks so you can keep all your project plans, back-of-the-envelope calculations, geek poetry, and time machine designs in one place. Get used to carrying it with you and writing notes to your future self.

  • Talks

Learn about the upcoming weekly talks for majors. Recent talks have included talks on 3D Printing and Arduinos by Chris Vincent (Physics 2014) and on Getting a job with the UN Office of Space Affairs (Therese Jones).

  • Drone Video of F=ma

If enough people show up, we will walk to the DUC lawn and make our drone video of the human F=ma

See you at  3:00pm Tuesday Oct. 6, in Olson 105.


Talk: Experimental Engineering (Arduinos and 3D Printing in Physics)

  • When: Tuesday September 29
  • When: 4pm
  • Where: Olson 120
  • Who: Chris Vincent (UOP ’15)
  • Title: Experimental Engineering

Chris will tell us about the engineering and research projects he was involved in over the summer.



Over the summer of 2015, Chris Vincent developed and honed skills in programming, prototyping, and the integration of experimental apparatuses. He worked on building an intensity controller for an alignment laser, a digital scale to measure the amount of N2 in a dewar, a scrolling LED sign to signify that the pump laser was in use, and a system to measure atmospheric data at various altitudes. To accomplish these tasks, he developed skills in programming for Arduino, including communications with external parts, such as potentiometers, load sensors, and LED matrices. Also, he honed 3D modeling and printing skills to create housings for the apparatuses. The ability to build and integrate experimental gear can be the factor to make or brake the completion of the experiment.

Pacific Physics alum David Pace (2002) recognized for contributions to fusion research

Dr. David Pace

Pacific Physics alum David Pace was awarded the prestigious American Physical Society‘s 2014 Landau-Spitzer Award for his contributions to understanding the physics of nuclear fusion.

David completed his B.S. degree in Physics at the University of the Pacific in 2002. His desire to study nuclear fusion developed following his participation in a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in 2001 at the National Spherical Torus Experiment, run by the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, where a mega-Ampere current run inspired his excitement for tokamak research.

He went on to earn a Ph.D. in experimental plasma physics at UCLA, working at the Large Plasma Device Laboratory there. With teams at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility through the University of California, Irvine, and at the Alcator C-Mod National Tokamak Facility, Dr. Pace helped commission fast ion loss detector diagnostic systems, leading to new studies of loss mechanisms through wave-particle interactions. He is a U.S. member of the International Tokamak Physics Activity Energetic Particles Topical Group, and leader of the United States Burning Plasma Organization Energetic Particles Group. He is presently a staff scientist with General Atomics and continues to engage in energetic ion research topics anticipated to influence the operation of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).

The Landua-Spitzer Award specifically recognizes

an individual or group of researchers not exceeding three, for outstanding theoretical, experimental or technical contribution(s) in plasma physics, and for advancing the collaboration and unity between the European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA) by joint research, or research that advances knowledge which benefits the EU and USA communities in a unique way.

The Award consists of a $4000 honorarium and a certificate citing the contribution made by the recipient. The citation for Dr. Pace reads:

For greater understanding of energetic particle transport in tokamaks through collaborative research

Congratulations David!

To learn more check out the links in the text above,  especially

  • the ITER project site to learn more about the international project to build a nuclear fusion reactor, and
  • this article, “A Star in a Bottle” in The New Yorker magazine


Tea Time in the Physics Lounge

tea time in Physics 8sep2015

The first Physics Department Tea Time kicked off this week on Tuesday, with majors Robert Ashby, Vaughn Petersen, Sarah Antonsson, Louis Johnson, and Christian Mercolini joining faculty members Drs. Flohic [seated], Hetrick, Basu, and Holland for tea, coffee, and discussions of new physics results, GRE preparation, and campus life.

Tea Time is every Tuesday at 3pm in the Physics Department’s Student Lounge, and is open to all. We hang out, talk about what we’ve been reading, working on, beating our heads against, and otherwise thinking about. This week there was some discussion about statistics in lattice gauge theory , as well as preparations for those taking the GRE soon. We also welcomed new major Christian Mercolini who is adding a B.S. in Physics to his CV. Christian is finishing up his degree in International Affairs and Finance, but discovered that he has a great passion for astrophysics and has decided to extend his education so that he can explore this new interest.

Join us each Tuesday afternoon for tea with faculty and students in the Physics Department Lounge, just beside room 101 in Olson Hall.