About US

Who Are We?

We are an interdisciplinary team of students at the University of Puget Sound working together to construct, operate, and maintain an inertial electrostatic confinement (IEC) fusion reactor.

We are students in physics, computer science, math, biology, and more. 

We had to stop work on our reactor in March 2020 because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, but as we’ve received clearance to return to campus in September 2020, we were able to enter our laboratory and continue building. Using video conferencing for remote team members and small on-site building pairs we’ve been able to make significant progress until we returned to full-time online learning in November 2020.

What Is Nuclear Fusion?

Fusion occurs when two atomic nuclei collide to fuse into a new combination of neutrons and protons. This process produces and requires high energies. Atomic nuclei are always highly positively charged, so there is going to be strong Coulomb repulsion. The only way that the two nuclei can physically come into contact is if one quantum tunnels into the other. An incredibly large voltage is needed to bring the nuclei close enough for tunneling to be probable. Once the tunneling occurs, a large amount of energy is released in the form of light and high energy constituent particles. It is up to us to create the conditions for this to happen.

The reaction that we are going to create is deuterium deuterium fusion (DD-fusion for short). These two reactions happen at a 50/50 rate. Deuterium is an isotope of helium with one extra neutron (1 proton + 1 neutron). Deuterium is naturally occurring in most sources of water usually at a rate of one atom in 6420 of hydrogen. Heavy water (also referred to as deuterium oxide) is a term for liquid water where every water molecule contains 2 deuterium atoms instead of just any two hydrogen. 

Meet the Team

Jack Bodine – Control Systems, Electronics

Jack is a sophomore studying computer science and mathematics at the University of Puget Sound. He is always looking for practical and challenging projects to apply what he’s learned in his comp. sci. classes. Jack is excited to be working on this project and to pick up new knowledge in physics, researching, and problem-solving.

Ouyang Du – Radiation & High-voltage Safety, Power System

Lukas Karoly – Gas System, Control Systems

I am a senior from Portland, OR, majoring in Physics and German. In my free time I enjoy tossing disc, watching movies I don’t understand (I like the visuals and sounds), learning how to make new noises, going on unexpectedly long walks, becoming a troubadour of Tacoma at unholy hours against the wishes of HOAs, and generally just chillin’ (I may also enjoy trout fishing, I have only been a couple times and was never too successful, so the jury is still out on that one). On campus I am also involved with KUPS, History Club, and (pre-COVID) club soccer. I have been enjoying getting a more hands-on experience of physics through the fusor work and can’t wait to see what becomes of it!

Noah Leibnitz – Gas System, Radiation & High-voltage Safety

I’m a physics major in my last semester at the University of Puget Sound. I love physics because it allows me to see how and why things work on the most fundamental levels possible. I’m also passionate about the environment, and I ultimately hope to utilize my degree to study renewable energy. Outside of academics, I love to do just about anything outside. Rock climbing, mountain biking, back-country snowboarding, and soccer are some of my favorites!

Sophia Pettitt-Kenney – Vacuum System, Power System

Sophia is a senior who will be graduating with a BS in physics and a minor in math. She loves physics because it helps her understand the world and solve problems. She is stoked to be working on the reactor to get a close up perspective on physics in action, and she hopes that the legacy of the reactor project will open up inspiration and opportunities for other young people, especially young women, in STEM. Sophia loves being at a liberal arts institution because it allows her to explore her many other academic interests including politics, philosophy, and writing. Outside of school, Sophia enjoys making music, environmental and social activism, and spending time exploring the outdoors, especially though climbing.

Daniel Scarbrough – Control Systems

Kiana Walter – Vacuum System, Gas System

Kiana Walter is a senior at the University of Puget Sound, double majoring in physics and math. She has worked as a physics tutor at the university’s tutoring center, the Center for Writing, Learning, and Teaching for the past two years and thoroughly enjoys teaching and helping students gain confidence in physics. She has also worked as a grader for the physics department in the past. She is currently writing her thesis based on her physics research on Majorana fermions. In addition to physics, Kiana enjoys dancing, singing, drinking coffee, and spending time outside.

Kobi Hall – TA and Mentor – Power System, Vacuum System

Kobi is a physics and mathematics graduate from the University of Puget Sound. He is interested in a wide variety of topics spanning science and engineering, including but not limited to differential geometry, particle physics, control systems, and machining. He has previously worked as a physics subject tutor at the Center for Writing, Learning, and Teaching. In addition, he enjoys gardening and listening to music or listening to music about gardening. However, he has yet to find a plant that plays music. He will continue his studies as a mechanical engineer at Columbia in the Fall.

Dr. Brett Klaassen – Instructor – Radiation and High-voltage Safety

Brett is a post-doctoral researcher and STEM educator with a Ph.D. in biomechanics.  He has had a special interest in fusion since childhood, and is thrilled to be working on this reactor with such a capable group of students.  He is also passionate about teaching, and has taught K-12 and college courses ranging from ecology to aerodynamics to, now, fusion. In addition to working as a scientist/educator, Brett loves to build things, mountain bike, climb, and take photos.  You can learn more about him and his ongoing work here: www.brettkvo.com