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Sonia Gamba, master project at SPC, EPFL

Master project at the Swiss Plasma Center, EPFL - Lausanne, Switzerland
During my studies in Nuclear Engineering I was most attracted by the physical aspects of the various subjects. I discovered a growing enthusiasm for a specific nuclear related field, the one of Plasma Physics. I was fascinated by many aspects of this intriguing subject, and I became quite interested in the numerous research possibilities and challenges nowadays open. I live in Italy, where, despite of the strong participation of many Italian industries in the construction of nuclear components (for fission reactors and for ITER, in fusion), nuclear energy is not very popular, and I know how much this is limiting my country. This motivated me to put strong efforts in understanding the issues facing the nuclear field, especially concerning nuclear fusion, which could and will revolutionise the worldwide energy production. The interest in these new challenges guided me in investigating the opportunities for a Master project in this field and, after a while, I got a proposal from the Swiss Plasma Center, which I believe to offer one of the highest level research programs in Europe - also due to the presence of TCV, the Tokamak a Configuration Variable, which allows to shape the plasma in a unique way.

Project
My work at SPC focused on the study of the linear instabilities associated to a reduced drift-kinetic model for the Scrape-Off Layer (SOL) of a plasma. The SOL is typically described through a fluid model, as it is done with the GBS code at SPC, but there are some phenomena, such as Edge Localised Modes (ELMS), that can not be studied with a fluid approach and require a kinetic treatment. In order to do so, a suitable model was proposed at SPC by R.Jorge et al. The first part of my project was linearising this model. This allowed me to study some linear instabilities, in particular the phenomenon of Landau damping, which was recovered within the reduced drift-kinetic model and compared with known results in literature. The second phenomenon I investigated was the one of drift waves. In this case the known fluid result was recovered and a following investigation focused on kinetic drift waves. In conclusion, the model was linearised and successfully used to investigate some known phenomena; further perspectives include the kinetic description of some instabilities that were, since now, investigated only with a fluid model and the description of new kind of instabilities arising only within a kinetic model.


Life outside the office
Besides the work itself, the every day life in the huge EPFL campus offered numerous events. I had the possibility to partecipate to various seminar, not only related to the Plasma Physics field, and to meet brilliant people. The campus offers many social events, such as music concerts (I had the possibility to go to the Balelec, a festival set in the EPFL campus), sport events and food festivals. The university also organised many trips to visit nearby cities, and I had the opportunity to visit Lyon, Evian, Geneva and Zurich. Moreover, during the summer season the lake and the mountains offer the possibility to go hiking, sailing or chill with a bbq.

This was definitely an amazing experience, it allowed me to grow from a personal and professional point of view, to learn a lot and to meet many interesting person. I am thankful to FuseNet for supporting me during these months and I would like to advice to any student who has the chance to live such an experience...don’t let it go!