Berkery and Sabbagh Receive the Landau-Spitzer Award

Dr. John W. (Jack) Berkery and Dr. Steven A. Sabbagh of the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics (APAM), along with European colleagues Yueqiang Liu of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, UK (CCFE) and Holger Reimerdes of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland (EPFL) were awarded the 2016 Landau-Spitzer Award, presented jointly every two years by the American Physical Society and the European Physical Society (APS and EPS).

The Award is given to an individual or group of researchers for outstanding theoretical, experimental, or technical contributions in plasma physics, and for advancing the collaboration and unity between the European Union and the United States. The Award also merits an invited talk on the research to be presented at the 43rd EPS Conference on Plasma Physics, July 4-8, in Leuven, Belgium.

The Award carries the citation For seminal joint research providing key understanding and quantitative verification of global mode stability in experimental high performance tokamak plasmas, based on drift-kinetic MHD theory, and made possible by strong and essential partnership between Europe and the USA. The research for which the award was given comprises nearly a decade of published effort on kinetic resistive wall mode theory validation and understanding, which included experiments on the NSTX and DIII-D tokamak devices.

Dr. Berkery is a research scientist and Dr. Sabbagh is a senior research scientist and adjunct professor of applied physics at APAM. Both are on long-term assignment at the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) in Princeton, NJ. Their joint research includes the physics of macroscopic stability of magnetically confined fusion plasmas and their control by active means, non-resonant alteration of the plasma rotation profile created by applied three-dimensional magnetic fields, and the prevention of disruptions in tokamak plasmas.

Dr. Berkery received his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University in 1999, and his Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University in 2005. Dr. Berkery works on the National Spherical Torus Experiment Upgrade (NSTX-U), where he is the leader of the Macroscopic Stability topical science group. He is a member of the American Physical Society (APS) and has been invited by selective committees to give talks on his research at APS Division of Plasma Physics meetings. Additionally, he has presented his work at over twenty other conferences, including internationally in Israel, Ireland, Germany and Taiwan. Dr. Berkery has been the first author on over a dozen scientific papers on his research including two in Physical Review Letters and one that has been recognized as one of the most cited articles of 2014 by Physics of Plasmas.

Dr. Sabbagh received his B.S. degree from Columbia in 1984, M.S. in 1985, M.Phil. in 1988, and Ph.D. in 1990. He presently directs, organizes, and conducts research in a collaboration between Columbia University and PPPL as principal investigator for research on magnetohydrodynamic plasma stability on NSTX-U and the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR). He is co-leader of the NSTX-U Core Science Group that manages one-third of the topical science groups that conduct research on the device. He has a prolific publication history, including over 310 papers and 6,450 citations. He has merited a number of awards including the Kaul Foundation Prize for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research and Technology Development (awarded by Princeton University), the International Atomic Energy Agency Nuclear Fusion Award, and the IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society Graduate Scholarship Award. He was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2010.

The prevention of disruptions in fusion tokamak devices is the new “grand challenge problem” in fusion plasma stability research. The research meriting this Award is a new paradigm and key foundation toward reaching this goal. Drs. Berkery and Sabbagh are now applying this knowledge and are naturally evolving their national and international research through an assessment and a quantitative reduction of disruptions in tokamak plasmas based on this improved physics understanding.

Photo: Dr. Steven A. Sabbagh (left) and Dr. John W. (Jack) Berkery (right) (photo: Elle Starkman)

500 W. 120th St., Mudd 200, MC 4701 New York, NY 10027 / Phone: 212-854-4457 / Fax: 212-854-8257 / Email:

©2012 Columbia University