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EDUCATION IN PLASMA SCIENCE 174 10 Education in Plasma Science For plasma physics to make the contributions in the areas identified elsewhere in this report, there must be enough researchers and applied scientists knowledgeable in the plasma fields to enable those contributions to be made. To examine the demographics of the plasma physics field, data were obtained from the American Institute of Physics (AIP), the National Science Foundation, the National Research Council (NRC), and a survey of doctorate-granting universities. The data indicate how many scientists were educated at the doctoral level in plasma physics. These scientists are not all of those now working in the field. The survey information also indicates how many new doctoral-level researchers will be entering the job market in the next five years. These, along with the current practitioners, must meet the challenges for plasma physics identified in the rest of this report. DEGREE PRODUCTION AND EMPLOYMENT STATISTICS From 1965 to 1991, 1539 doctorates were awarded in plasma physics. The average annual production in the 1970s was 72, with an upsurge between 1970 and 1972, peaking at 93 PhDs in 1972. The average annual production in the 1980s was 55. The number dropped to 42 in 1990 and rose to 58 in 1991.1 1 National Science Foundation, Science and Engineering Doctorates:1960â1991, NSF 93-301, Washington, D.C., 1993, Table 1.
EDUCATION IN PLASMA SCIENCE 175 Graduates in plasma physics have been primarily white male U.S. citizens: of the 1960â1991 total, nearly 97% were male and 74% were U.S. citizens. Of the 1976â1991 plasma physics doctorate recipients, 65% were white. In 1991â 1992 there was a change in the nongender categories: plasma physics PhD recipients were 61% U.S. citizen and 53% white, but still 96% male. The AIP provided data on employment based on a sample estimate of approximately one-tenth of all plasma physicists who are members of the AIP.2 This information indicates that for PhD AIP members working full or part time in plasma physics in 1990, there is not one predominant category of employer. Four national laboratories, the university sector, and industry each account for about one-third of the positions: University or university-affiliated research institute 34% Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) 34% Industry 23% Government 8% Self-employed 1% Most employees of FFRDCs were at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), and Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). Plasma scientists associated with universities are often on the research staff of the university, not the teaching faculty: Research staff (e.g., research scientist) 47% Professor 33% Associate professor 6% Assistant professor 6% Other/unknown 8% Although the data do not indicate tenure-track versus non-tenure-track positions, the predominance of research staff positions suggests strongly that a large number of plasma physicists in university-associated positions are not on the tenure track. Similar data for other fields in 1990 are given in Table 10.1. In none of these fields do physicists appear as likely to be in a non-tenure-track position as in plasma physics. This point probably is not missed by graduate students selecting a field. 2 Information from AIP Statistics Division, included with letter from Jean M. Curtin, research associate, to John Ahearne, September 16, 1992.
EDUCATION IN PLASMA SCIENCE 176 TABLE 10.1 Employment Category in 1990 (percent of total) for University- affiliated Physicists in Selected Fields Nuclear Condensed Atomic Elementary Optics Physics Matter and Particles and Physics Molecular Fields Physics Research 17 21 21 20 27 staff Professor 56 46 48 59 40 Associate 11 15 16 10 15 professor Assistant 9 17 11 10 17 professor Other/ 7 1 4 1 2 unknown Source: Information from AIP Statistics Division, included with letter from Jean M. Curtin, research associate, to John Ahearne, February 9, 1993. TABLE 10.2 Area of Employment in 1990 (percent of total) for Holders of PhDs in Selected Physics Fields. Nuclear Condensed Atomic Elementary Optics Physics Matter and Particles Physics Molecular and Fields Physics In field 29 45 28 40 58 Other physics 47 31 47 40 26 Engineering 7 10 9 8 6 Other/ 17 14 16 12 10 unknown Source: Information from AIP Statistics Division, included with letter from Jean M. Curtin, research associate, to John Ahearne February 9, 1993. In 1990, about half of those who held a PhD in plasma physics were working primarily on plasmas; their subfields of employment were as follows:3 Plasma physics 51% Other physics 30% Engineering 12% Other/unknown 7% For comparison, Table 10.2 indicates areas of employment in 1990 for holders of PhDs in other physics fields. For all these degree fields, at least 75% of PhD 3 Information from AIP Statistics Division, included with letter from Jean M. Curtin, research associate, to John Ahearne, February 9, 1993.