Southeast Student Continues to Pursue Career in Physics
College of Science and Mathematics
Jonathan Kessler of Evansville, Ill., is working side-by-side with researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as he pursues a future in the field of physics.
Jonathan is currently trying to explain some characteristics of Edge Localized Modes (ELMs) in a tokamak. ELMs are disruptive instabilities occurring in the edge region of a tokamak plasma. A tokamak, Jonathan says, is a type of Nuclear Fusion Reactor that uses strong magnetic fields to contain a sustained fusion reaction.
"It is similar to the idea that Dr. Octavious had in the movie 'Spiderman 2,'" he says. "However, the device is shaped like a donut."
ELMS, he says, are solarflares that come from the sun, but occur inside of these devices, making it difficult to sustain the reaction.
"I am currently analyzing data from a tokamak in San Diego (Calif.) to determine why ELMs only occur at certain times during the reaction."
Jonathan says his work is important to his future because he hopes to pursue a doctoral degree and focus his research in this area. He will graduate from Southeast with bachelor's degrees in physics, mathematics and engineering physics.
"I have been accepted into graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, and I am waiting to hear back from a few other schools," he said.
His research work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison follows an internship he completed last summer with the Department of Plasmas and Astrophysics at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J. He spent a week at Princeton Plasma Physics Lab (PPPL) and then was sent to General Atomics, a company in the Sorrento Valley north of San Diego where he studied fusion science.
"I have always been interested in being part of the bigger picture," he says. "I wanted to be part of some type of large-scale solution at the cutting edge of science and technology, and I have always been a strong advocate of global climate change prevention."
He says fusion power could fuel the entire world for millennia without any environmental or proliferation hazards.
Jonathan says he plans to take the summer off before beginning his doctoral studies.
"I plan on spending the summer at home working as a laborer," he said. "I want to relax from physics and engineering for a short time before starting another stretch of schooling."
During his time in Cape Girardeau, Jonathan says he has enjoyed playing pool and darts, Student Government debates and "giving Dr. Margaret Hill (Southeast associate professor of physics) a hard time."
He says he has had many experiences at Southeast that have placed him on the road to future success.
"Class work is always helpful, but time spent in labs, talking to professors one on one, having ample opportunities to get involved on or off campus, and having the possibility to go even higher, can never be overrated," he said.
Jonathan offers the following advice to future Southeast students: "The opportunities for success are everywhere, especially at Southeast. There are so many chances for involvement that there shouldn't be a single student left to his/her own devices. Apply, petition, enroll … Do what interests you, and you'll benefit from it."