National Academies Press: OpenBook

Plasma Science: From Fundamental Research to Technological Applications (1995)


Suggested Citation:"ESTIMATE OF FUTURE SUPPLY OF PLASMA PHYSICISTS." National Research Council. 1995. Plasma Science: From Fundamental Research to Technological Applications. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4936.

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EDUCATION IN PLASMA SCIENCE 177 recipients were in some field of physics. However, only for plasma and optics were at least one-half the doctorate holders working in the same field as their doctorate. Although many who were educated as plasma physicists have switched to other fields, crossover into plasma physics has also occurred. The AIP data indicate that many people working in plasma physics were educated in other fields. For those who indicated in 1990 that they were working full or part time in plasma physics, the predominant degree was as follows:4 Plasma physics 56% Other physics 27% Engineering 8% Mathematics and statistics 1% Unknown 8% ESTIMATE OF FUTURE SUPPLY OF PLASMA PHYSICISTS The NRC Doctorate Records Project identified 52 U.S. academic institutions that awarded at least one doctorate identified as in the field of plasma physics during the period from 1987 to 1991.5 These 52 institutions awarded a total of 298 doctorates in plasma physics during this period. The data do not indicate from which department the degree was awarded. Questionnaires were also sent to the chairs of physics departments (or other departments, if they had been identified as more appropriate). Responses were received from 40 departments, representing 38 institutions. The responding institutions produced 255 PhDs in 1987–1991 (86% of the total identified by the Doctorate Records Project). The departments estimated that during the next five years they would produce 332 to 340 PhDs in plasma physics—an increase of at least 11% over the previous five years. In the respondents' departments, in addition to 374 students in doctorate programs, there were 31 students in master's programs. Thus, if the previous supply of plasma physicists was enough to meet the needs of the field (implied by nearly one-half not working in plasma physics), unless there is a very large growth in demand the current estimated production rate should be more than adequate. It may be too high, which could be true of all physics, as indicated by the head of the AIP Education and Employment Statistics Division, Roman, Czujko: ''Results from AIP's most recent surveys indicate that the total number of projected vacancies in academia, government, and national laboratories combined is well under 50% of the total number of 4 See footnote 3. 5 Information included in letter from Lori Thurgood, research associate, NRC Office of Scientific and Engineering Personnel, to John Ahearne, October 13, 1992.

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Plasma science is the study of ionized states of matter. This book discusses the field's potential contributions to society and recommends actions that would optimize those contributions. It includes an assessment of the field's scientific and technological status as well as a discussion of broad themes such as fundamental plasma experiments, theoretical and computational plasma research, and plasma science education.

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