Life at PPPL

I work at PPPL, known to the outside world as the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. When I say “work,” I really mean slave away at graduate student wages, fixing all sorts of broken equipment that is usually older than I am. Seriously. Well not about slaving away. I know a lot of graduate students who do put in 14 hour days, but that is not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of a government workplace. Nine to five is the rule around here.

The part I was serious about is the fixing of broken equipment that is older than I am. I’m 25. I know its not that old, but when most the equipment you use has an FY-78 sticker, you get the idea that your place of work isn’t exactly bleeding edge. Shit, we run our research project off of a Sun Ultra 5, Bullwinkle. You can buy these guys on E-Bay for pennies. Well, maybe not pennies, but 2 for $30?

We used to have a second one named Rocky. Rocky started getting mighty flaky about a year ago, so we set off on a search to replace it. Someone at the lab had another Ultra 5 lying around and just gave it to us. That one died too and was replaced by PIII Dell.

Anyway, I’m sure I will talk about crappy old equipment quite a bit in the future. To go on a bit more about my research, I should mention the research project that I am a part of, CDX-U. CDX-U is about to be no more as we move onto the next phase of its lifecycle, LTX.

CDX-U is a tokamak, or technically a spherical torus. To the outsider, the distinction between the two is small, but there are some differences in the physics that occur in the two configurations. Think of a standard tokamak as a donut, where as a spherical torus is more like a cored apple. Small aspect ratio.

The CDX-U site I linked to above is pretty bad (and ancient). I’m not on there, but my advisors are. I should really get around to changing that…