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Suggested Citation:"Education in Plasma Science." 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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Page 18

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 18 This progress has been driven by advances in computational techniques in general and also by the invention of new algorithms designed specifically for plasma computations. Future challenges to theoretical and computational plasma physics arise from several different considerations. As mentioned above, the description of plasma behavior, given that plasmas are nonlinear and nonequilibrium many- body systems, typically presents the theorist with very difficult problems. In addition, a wide variety of parameter ranges and boundary conditions are relevant to plasmas of interest. Finally, the fact that there is a vast range of practical applications of plasmas—from plasma processing, to new radiation sources and accelerators, to fusion and global communications—requires not just a qualitative but a quantitative understanding of the underlying plasma behavior. One particularly important and broad topic in theoretical and computational plasma science is the achievement of a deeper understanding of plasma turbulence and the associated transport that frequently results from it. Another broad area of fundamental importance is understanding the evolution of currents, flows, and magnetic fields in plasmas. These problems, which typically involve a breaking of the spatial symmetry, can lead to coherent structures and multiple length scales that are difficult to treat theoretically or numerically. Yet such phenomena are important in applications ranging from low-temperature plasmas for materials processing and welding to space and astrophysical plasmas. While the current programs of theory and modeling have been successful, particularly in the context of the large applied programs, the panel concludes that two modes of research need to be reemphasized. There is a need for individual-investigator-led research on questions fundamental to basic plasma science, such as stochastic effects, novel analytical techniques, and a variety of nonlinear processes. Emphasis also needs to be put on pursuing the commonality of physical processes and mathematical techniques across the many subdisciplines of plasma science. Education in Plasma Science Plasma science is a fundamental scientific discipline that has made and continues to make significant contributions to our society. The field is intrinsically interdisciplinary, much like modern materials science. Yet, there needs to be a focus and home for plasma science in modern educational and research institutions for the field to develop properly and have the maximum impact. The panel has found that plasma scientists are less likely to be in tenure- track positions than are other physicists. Presently, courses in plasma science are unavailable at many educational institutions. If this trend continues, plasma science education and basic plasma science research are likely to decrease in both quality and quantity. The entire field of plasma science, including its educational function, will

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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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