Physicist Michael Brown Elected to Lead APS Plasma Physics Division

Mike Brown teaches in front of blackboard

Morris L. Clothier Professor of Physics Michael Brown will be the first vice-chair of the DPP from a small, liberal arts institution.

Morris L. Clothier Professor of Physics Michael Brown has been elected vice-chair of the American Physical Society (APS) Division of Plasma Physics (DPP), a four-year position that proceeds to chair-elect, chair, and past-chair. 

Brown will be involved in planning for the Division of Plasma Physics, one of 16 APS divisions with a membership of 3,000, throughout his term, including running the meeting as chair-elect. The DPP is the intellectual home for plasma physics, says Brown, who has been a member of the professional community for 35 years.

“Plasma physics is very broad so it's important for the DPP to be inclusive at our meetings and our journals,” he says. “The key role of the DPP is to organize the annual meeting for all of plasma science in the US. When I run the meeting in two years, my hope is to have sessions that might be of interest to the whole division.”

Reaching out to scientists involved in plasma physics in other fields is one of Brown’s goals in his new role. “This includes astronomers interested in the interstellar medium, physicians who use plasma devices to cauterize wounds, materials scientists who use complex gaseous chemical plasmas to etch and deposit materials on computer chips,” says Brown. “These scientists belong to other scholarly societies, but as chair, I hope to reach out to chairs of these societies to exchange speakers at our meetings, and ideas in our journals.” 

University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor of Astronomy & Physics Ellen G. Zweibel, a theoretical astrophysicist with a specialty in plasma astrophysics, is the current APS-DPP chair.

“I have known Mike for many years as a remarkable scientist and effective educator who has worked tirelessly for the plasma science community in many roles,” says Zweibel. “I'm delighted that he's joining the APS-DPP Chair Leadership Cycle.”

This newly-named position will bring exposure to the College and recognition for Swarthmore students heading to graduate school. Lists of past DPP chairs, include faculty from institutions such as MIT, Princeton, Los Alamos, Wisconsin, Columbia, and Maryland. But Brown stands out in one particular way.

“I'll be the first from a small college,” he says. “The job will require a lot of time in the next four years, but I plan to try to keep my research enterprise going.”  Brown researches the dynamic properties of plasma using the Swarthmore Spheromak Experiment (SSX) machine he designed and created over 20 years ago.