Six Researchers Share 2017 John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research

COLLEGE PARK, MD, July 14, 2017 — Six researchers are sharing the 2017 American Physical Society’s John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research. The award is presented to honor a recent, outstanding achievement in plasma physics research.

The Dawson Award citation recognizes the researchers for "pioneering use of proton radiography to reveal new aspects of flows, instabilities, and fields in high-energy-density plasmas."

The recipients of the 2017 Dawson Award are:

  • Marco Borghesi, The Queen’s University, Belfast
  • Chikang Li, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Andrew James MacKinnon, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Richard D. Petrasso, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Fredrick H. Séguin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Oswald Willi, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf

The annual award consists of $5,000 to be divided equally among the recipients, and includes a certificate citing the contributions made by the recipient or recipients, to be presented at an award ceremony at the Division of Plasma Physics Annual Meeting Banquet. The annual meeting will take place October 23-27 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Dawson Award Recipient Biographies:

Marco Borghesi obtained his Ph.D. in 1998 from the Blackett Laboratory at Imperial College in London under the supervision of Oswald Willi, after initial studies in Italy, leading to a laurea in physics from Pisa University in 1992, and a postgraduate certificate in optical technologies from Associazione Istituzione Libera Università,in Nuoro in 1993. After a brief postdoctoral period at Imperial College, he became a lecturer in the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s University in Belfast in 1999. He was promoted to a reader in 2005 and became a professor in 2008. Borghesi held the Mitsuyuki Abe Chair at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, from 2008 to 2011, and held other visiting positions with the ELI Beamlines Institute and the Institute of Physics of the Czech Republic from 2012 to 2015. His extensive publication record — more than 275 refereed publications — includes 42 papers in Physical Review Letters (PRL), two in Science, four in Nature Physics/Communications, and an invited review in the Journal of Modern Physics. Borghesi’s research interests lay in the area of intense laser-plasma interactions, with particular expertise in laser-driven acceleration of ion beams. He has served as principal investigator in projects such as LIBRA 2007-12 and since 2013, A-SAIL, aimed at advancing laser-ion acceleration towards future medical applications. He has contributed to the development of innovative ion acceleration schemes, and pioneered the application of laser-driven proton beams to plasma radiography as well as to high-dose rate radiobiology. Borghesi is a fellow of the Institute of Physics.

Chikang Li earned his Ph.D. in applied plasma physics in 1993 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after receiving a B.S. from Sichuan University in 1982. He is a senior scientist at the Plasma Science and Fusion Center at MIT, where he is also the associate head of the High-Energy-Density Physics Division, which he co-founded. His research interests are in experimental and theoretical studies of high-energy-density physics and inertial-confinement-fusion (ICF) implosions. After developing theoretical models for charged particles interacting with dense plasmas, Li helped design and build charged-particle diagnostics for laser-produced plasmas at the Omega Laser Facility and at the National Ignition Facility (NIF). He went on to use these technologies to delineate dynamics and critical parameters of ICF implosions. His recent research has focused on using proton radiography to study the generation, evolution, reconnection, and instability of spontaneously generated magnetic fields; the evolution of areal density and internal electric fields in ICF implosions; the evolving fields and flows in laser-driven hohlraums; the evolution of astrophysical jets in laboratory scaled experiments; and the stopping powers in warm dense matters and classic plasmas. He has authored or coauthored more than 280 peer-reviewed journal papers. Li chaired the High-Energy-Density Science Association from 2011-2012 and has been an American Physical Society fellow since 2006.

Andrew MacKinnon received his B.Sc. in physics with laser science, from Heriot Watt University in 1988. From 1989-1991, he worked on the development of high power ND: glass lasers at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment in the UK. He then joined the plasma physics group at Imperial College in London, and was awarded his Ph.D. in 1996. MacKinnon carried out his post-doctoral research at Imperial College, studying relativistic self-focusing and magnetic field generation in laser produced plasmas, using the Vulcan laser at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Between 1999 and 2015, MacKinnon was an experimental physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, studying the production and application of laser-driven MeV ions and the creation of high-energy-density plasmas by x-ray driven implosions. Between 2015 and 2017 he was the department head for the Matter in Extreme Conditions station at Linac Coherent Light Source at the Stanford Linear Accelerator National Laboratory, supporting high energy density experiments using high power optical and x-ray lasers. MacKinnon returned to LLNL in March 2017 to become a section leader at the National Ignition Facility at LLNL. He was awarded the Wallace Prize for best undergraduate research project while at Heriot-Watt University, and has been a visiting research fellow at Queen’s University in Belfast, and a visiting professor at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. In 2008, he became a fellow of the American Physical Society.

Richard D. Petrasso received his B.S. from Oregon State University in 1967 and his Ph.D. from Brandeis University in 1972. His research has focused on high-energy-density (HED) and inertial-confinement-fusion (ICF) plasmas. In the late 1980s, Petrasso collaborated with Ph.D. student Chikang Li, to study the slowing of energetic charged particles in HED plasmas in order to determine plasma properties. Together with researchers from the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Sandia National Laboratories, and several MIT students and staff, Petrasso helped create diagnostics and analyses used at Omega Laser Facility and the National Ignition Facility at LLNL. This included the multiple monoenergetic particle source (MMPS), based on imploding thin-shelled (~ 2 micron) capsules (~ 400 micron diam) filled with D and 3He. Through this high-temperature (~10 keV), shock-driven implosion, fusion products of 14.7 MeV and 3.0 MeV protons, 3.6 MeV alphas, 1.0 MeV T, and 0.8 MeV 3He ions are isotropically emitted (~10**9) in ~75 ps. The MMPS is being used by the HED community to radiograph and analyze fields and plasma evolution, and to study stopping power in classical and WDM plasmas. The MMPS was utilized by the 2014 and 2016 Marshall Rosenbluth Outstanding Thesis awardees, Drs. Mario Manuel and Michael Rosenberg. Petrasso is currently researching equilibration between electrons, impurity ions, and fuel ions in HED plasmas. In 2013, Petrasso received the Edward Teller Medal for development of novel HED/ICF diagnostics and analyses. He heads the HED Physics Division in the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center, and is a fellow of the American Physical Society.

Fredrick Séguin received a B.S. in physics from MIT in 1969. His thesis was on group theory, and he spent two summers building particle detectors at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. He finished his Ph.D. in physics at Caltech in 1974, with a thesis on stellar hydrodynamics in relativistic gravity. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Séguin worked in x-ray astronomy, plasma physics and imaging science. With Richard Petrasso, he developed x-ray imaging diagnostics at MIT’s Alcator-A Tokamak, studying impurity transport and plasma disruptions. He undertook projects for other institutions such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Smithsonian Conservation-Analytical Laboratory. For 25 years he has worked at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, studying plasma dynamics in experiments at the University of Rochester’s Omega Laser Facility and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility. Séguin developed proton spectrometers and proton-emission imaging for studying 3-D distributions of plasmas and nuclear reactions in them. With Richard Petrasso and Chikang Li, he developed monoenergetic-charged-particle radiography and applied it with students and collaborators to the observation and measurement of laboratory plasma phenomena and associated fields. Subjects include plasma jet propagation scaled from astrophysical contexts (e.g. the Crab Nebula), magnetic reconnection, and inertial-confinement-fusion experiments.

Oswald Willi read physics at the University of Innsbruck in 1977 and obtained a Master (1978) and a D.Phil. degree (1980) from the University of Oxford, where he stayed on through 1982 as a postdoctoral researcher at the Clarendon Laboratory. From 1982 until 1984, he was postdoctoral fellow at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. In 1984 he became a lecturer and a reader at the Imperial College of London before he was elevated in 1993 to a professor in Plasma Physics. Willi headed one of the major user groups of the Central Laser Facility (CLF) at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, where he performed measurements in the area of inertial confinement fusion. In 2001, Willi moved to the University Düsseldorf to set up a new laboratory in high intensity femtosecond laser-plasma interactions, including the acceleration of particles and the generation of intense photon sources for various applications. Under his leadership the ARCTURUS Laser System (two laser beams with a power of 200TW in each beam) has been established. Willi has been the coordinator of two important German research programs: the SFB/TR18 and GRK1203.

Contact: James Riordon, APS,, (301) 209-3238

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