Research by plasma physics doctoral student Jerry Carr Jr. might be grounded at West Virginia University, but it’s taking flight across the globe and beyond. His NASA-sponsored study could help propel a manned space flight to Mars and has earned him an invitation to assemble with some of the world’s most important scientists in Lindau, Germany.
Carr is one of 75 graduate students from U.S. institutions selected to attend the prestigious 60th annual Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates and students from June 27 to July 3, 2010.
His selection was based on current research funded by the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium in the form of a $12,000 fellowship. Carr seeks to duplicate phenomenon observed in space to explain the heating of plasmas in nature. He studies double layers, or special regions of plasma where particles undergo acceleration from a potential field.
Carr’s research also provides multiple applications in materials processing, like treating polyester to wick away water, creating harder materials such as artificial hips and piston rings, sterilizing medical instruments using heat and UV radiation of a plasma, creating computer chips with plasma etching and designing plasma televisions and fluorescent lighting.
The Lindau Meeting brings together nearly 600 young researchers from around the globe with approximately 60 scientists at the pinnacle of their profession from the fields of physiology, medicine, physics and chemistry to participate in panel discussions, seminars and lectures on current and future scientific topics and fields of research.
More than 20,000 young researchers apply to attend each Lindau Meeting, and the United States is one of a few nations that use a multi-tiered selection procedure. Carr was selected as one of 21 students sponsored by the National Science Foundation’s Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate.
From July 12 to August 6, Carr will spend time at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Greifswald, Germany, where he will investigate Alfven wave excitation and detection and double layer formation in their laboratories. This is one of the largest fusion research centers in Europe and is concerned with investigating the physical basis of a fusion power plant that, like the sun, generates energy from fusion of atomic nuclei.
As a graduate research and teaching assistant at WVU, Carr has designed and constructed a plasma cavity ringdown spectroscopy system and performed time-resolved laser induced fluorescence measurements. He also established a tutoring center for introductory physics students.
Previously, he was a Georgia Institute of Technology cooperative intern and a higher education research experiences graduate intern at the Spallation Neutron Source in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where he worked for the SNS Ion Source Group. He constructed an offline test stand for plasma guns and established sources needed for baseline and power upgrade operations.
Carr graduated with a bachelor’s degree and highest honors in physics from Georgia Tech in 2007, and studied electrical engineering, computer science and brain and cognitive sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
For a complete schedule of the Lindau Meeting, go to http://www.lindau-nobel.de.
While there, Carr will be posting his observations and experiences on Twitter (and on WVUToday).
For more information, please contact Earl Scime, chair of the WVU department of physics, at 304-293-3422 ext. 1437 or Earl.Scime@mail.wvu.edu.
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