Walter Gekelman, Professor of Physics and Principal Investigator (PI)

Walter Gekelman is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UCLA where he has been since 1974. He received a BS in physics from Brooklyn College in 1966 and a Ph.D. in experimental plasma physics at Stevens Institute of Technology in 1972. As a graduate student he built a Barium Q-machine and developed optical systems for spectroscopic measurements related to the current-driven (ion-cyclotron) instability. Before joining UCLA he was a guest scientist at the Instituto Ellectrotechnico Nazionale in Torino, Italy, where he constructed a "plasma focus" device and used X-ray photography, X-ray scintillators, and neutron detectors to study the plasma dynamics of the device.

At UCLA Gekelman has developed three different plasma devices, each becoming progressively larger and more sophisticated technologically to solve problems at the frontier of basic plasma research. The first device, named SCAMP (Source Chamber and Magnetized Plasma) was utilized to make the first measurement of the linear dispersion relation of lower-hybrid waves, and the discovery of nonlinear effects associated with the ponderomotive force of the related resonance cones. The device was also used to study the turbulence that develops when a current flows through a collisionless plasma and resulted in the first experiment to illustrate the three dimensional nature of ion-acoustic turbulence and the scattering it produces on test particles. The next device, built jointly by Gekelman and Prof. R. Stenzel, required the development of a one-meter oxide cathode to generate a large volume plasma. An intensive effort spanning several years led to the most comprehensive laboratory study of reconnection processes and the first observation of tearing of a current sheet. The results were reported in several publications that are extensively quoted by experts in the reconnection area.

Gekelman obtained substantial extramural and university resources and over a period of 4.5 years led a team of undergraduate and graduate students in the construction of the Large Plasma Device (LAPD). This is widely perceived as the premier machine for basic plasma studies and is presently yielding important insight into basic processes observed in space by rockets and spacecraft. In 1997 this effort culminated in an MRI award by the NSF in which Gekelman was PI. The device will completed in the Early Spring of 2001, and is expected to become a National User Facility for basic Plasma Research.

During the reconnection phase of his research Gekelman pioneered the use of computer visualization techniques in plasma physics in order to elucidate the complex three dimensional structures that are hidden in very large data sets. This has been a topic of great interest to Gekelman and he has lead various efforts in this area including the development of a visualization center at UCLA. He is presently co-PI in a NSF-sponsored interdisciplinary project to develop real-time analysis of complicated data sets. Gekelman has published several papers in this area including an educational CD-ROM entitled "Relativistic City" in which the subtleties of special relativity are illustrated.

As coordinator for computing Gekelman was responsible for laying the early foundations for effective computation in the physical sciences at UCLA. In this capacity Gekelman developed extensive contacts with industrial partners and secured significant computing resources for UCLA.

Gekelman has deep interest in improving the level of science education and is leading various efforts in this area. The most significant is the creation in 1993 of the LAPTAG outreach project involving high school teachers and students in thirty two institutions in the Los Angeles basin. Gekelman participates in various groups charting new directions in this area. Walter Gekelman has been a consultant for TRW and SAIC and has served on NASA and DOE panels.

Significant publications

Y. Zhang, W. W. Heidbrink, H Boehmer, R. McWilliams, G. Chen, S. Vincena, T. Carter, D. Leneman, W. Gekelman, P. Pribyl, and B. Brugman, Spectral gap of shear Alfven waves in a periodic array of magnetic mirrors , Phys. Plasmas, v15, 012103, (2008).

D. Leneman, Reflection of Alfven waves from boundaries with different conductivities, Phys. Plasmas, v14, 122109, (2007).

B. Jacobs, W. Gekelman, P. Pribyl, M. Barnes, and M. Kilgore, Laser-induced fluorescence measurements in an inductively coupled plasma reactor, App. Phys. Lett., 91 161505, (2007.)

Y. Zhang, H. Boehmer, W. W. Heidbrink, R. McWilliams, D. Leneman, and S. Vincena, Lithium ion sources for investigations of fast ion transport in magnetized plasmas, Rev. Sci. Instrum, 78, 013302 (2007).

W. Gekelman, A. Collette, and S. Vincena , Three-dimensional current systems generated by plasmas colliding in a background magnetoplasma , Phys. Plasmas, 14, 062109 (2007).

J.E. Maggs, T.A. Carter, and R.J. Taylor, Transition from Bohm to classical diffusion due to edge rotation of a cylindrical plasma, Phys. Plasmas, 14, 052507 (2007).

F.S. Tsung, G.J. Morales, and J. Tonge, Alfvenic phenomena triggered by resonant absorption of an O-mode pulse, Phys. Plasmas, 14, 042101, 2007.

W. Gekelman, J. Wise, P. Pribyl, R. Baker, W. Layton, J. Skrzypek, P. Niknejadi, R. Ransom, D. Lee, R. Zarinshesnas, T. Kim, R. Buck, E. Warfel, T. Tasoff, J. Carmona, S. Skolnik, L. Kim, D. Furlong, and N. Gibson, Ion acoustic wave experiments in a high school plasma physics laboratory, Am. J. Phys. 75 (2) 2007.

Y. Zhang, H. Boehmer, W.W. Heidbrink, R. McWilliams, D. Leneman, and S. Vincena, Lithium ion sources for investigations of fast ion transport in magnetized plasma, Rev. Sci. Instrum., 78, 013302, 2007.

V.A. Manasson, A. Avakian, A. Brailovsky, W. Gekelman, A. Gigliotti, L. Giubbolinni, I. Gordion, M. Felman, V. Khodos, V. Litvinov, P. Pribyl, L. Sadovnik, Time/Space-Probing Interferometer for Plasma Diagnostics, Proceedings of the 2006 Antenna Applications Symposium, Allerton Park, Monticello, Illinois, Sept 20-22, 2006/

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James Maggs, Research Physicist and Co-PI

Vita - Co-principal Investigator: James E. Maggs; born in Oakland, CA; November 16, 1943; US Citizen.


Bachelor of Science, Physics, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, 1965

Master of Science, Geophysics, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK, 1967.

Doctor of Philosophy, Geophysics, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK, 1971.

Positions held:

1986- present Research Physicist, Physics Department, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA.

1989-95 Assistant Director for Policy and Personnel, Institute of Plasma and Fusion Research, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA.

1987-89 Acting Assistant Director, Institute of Plasma and Fusion Research, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA.

1978-86 Associate Research Geophysicist, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA.

1973-78 Assistant Research Geophysicist, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA.

1971-73 NAS/NRC Postdoctoral Resident Research Associate, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD.

1967-71 Senior Research Assistant, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK.

1965-66 Teaching Assistant, Physics Department, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK.

1966-67 Research Assistant, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK.

Areas of specialization:

Space plasma physics, auroral beam, wave generation and propagation in nonuniform plasmas, ionospheric heating, analytic and numerical solutions of differential equations, experimental investigation of basic plasma processes with emphasis on those relevant to space plasmas.

Professional societies:

American Physical Society


Five most closely related to project:

Five other significant publications:


G. J. Morales, Physics Dept., UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, 90095. W. N. Gekelman, Physics Dept., UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, 90095. A. T. Burke, Physics Dept., UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, 90095. J. R. Penano, Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D.C., 20375.

Associated graduate students and postdoctoral scholars (past 5 years):

J. F. Bamber, J. R. Penano, A. T. Burke, S. Vincena, D. Leneman

Graduate thesis and postdoctoral advisors:

Graduate thesis: D. W. Swift, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Geophysical Institute, Fairbanks Alaska. Postdoctoral: T. Birmingham, Goddard Space Flight Ctr., Greenbelt, MD.

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George Morales, Professor of Physics and Co-PI

Vita George J. Morales, Born: Havana, Cuba, November 24, 1945; Naturalized U.S. Citizen.


B. S. in Physics (Magna Cum Laude) Fairleigh Dickinson University, 1967.

M. S. in Physics, University of California, San Diego, 1971.

Ph.D. in Physics, University of California, San Diego, 1973.

Positions held:

Assistant Research Physicist/Adjunct Assistant Professor, Physics Department, University of California, Los Angeles, 1973-July 1978

Associate Research Physicist/Adjunct Associate Professor, Physics Department, University of California, Los Angeles, July 1978-June 1982.

Associate Professor of Physics, Physics Department, University of California, Los Angeles, July 1982-June 1983.

Professor of Physics, Physics Department.


Four-year Scholarship at Fairleigh Dickinson University, 1963-1967

Charles M. Zucker Memorial Award in Physics, 1966

Phi Zeta Kappa Honor Society, 1964

Phi Epsilon Omega Honor Society, 1966

Fellow, American Physical Society, 1981

UCLA Physics Department Teaching Award, l984, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995

Order of the Golden Bruin, 1990

Professional societies:

American Physical Society, Plasma Physics Division of the American Physical Society


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Troy Carter, Professor of Physics and Co-PI

Research interests: My research involves experiments in laboratory plasmas and seeks to understand phenomena relevant to magnetic confinement fusion energy and to space and astrophysical plasmas. In particular my work focuses on nonlinear wave interactions, turbulence, and turbulence-induced transport in magnetized plasmas. I am a member of the Center for Multiscale Plasma Dynamics (CMPD), which is a DOE Fusion Science Center led by UCLA and University of Maryland.

Educational background:

Ph.D., Astrophysical Sciences (plasma physics), Princeton University (2001)

B.S., Physics and Nuclear Engineering, North Carolina State University (1995)

Website for Troy Carter

Troy Carter's CV

Department contact information