Gross Honored for Nuclear Fusion Research

Columbia University RECORD
October 15, 1993 Vol. 19 No. 7

Robert A. Gross, Columbia professor, former dean and pioneer in nuclear fusion research, has been honored for his life's work by Fusion Power Associates, a non-profit research and education foundation in Gaithersburg, MD.

Gross, the Percy K. and Vida L. W. Hudson Professor of applied physics and former dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, received the organization's Distinguished Career Award Oct. 5 at its annual meeting in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

The award, made annually since 1987, recognizes lifelong career contributions to the study of nuclear fusion, the power that lights the sun and stars by joining atomic nuclei.

"Bob Gross put Columbia on the map in fusion research," said Gerald A. Navratil, professor and chairman of the Department of Applied Physics. "His contributions here and to the fusion community at large have been invaluable."


He served as dean of the engineering school from 1981 to 1989 and proposed the $80 million Schapiro Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research, which was completed in 1992.

On arrival at the University in 1961, the Columbia scientist also founded the Plasma Physics Laboratory, now one of the nation's principal university laboratories dedicated to fusion energy research.

He was founding chairman of Columbia's Department of Applied Physics and became a leading authority in plasma shock phenomena and in the equilibrium and stability of high-pressure magnetized plasmas. He has served on several high-level advisory committees to the U.S. Department of Energy on fusion power.


Gross has been doctoral adviser to 25 Columbia Ph.D. recipients. His excellence in the classroom was recognized by the Great Teacher Award from Columbia's Society of Graduates. His textbook, Fusion Energy, was based on the course he taught at Columbia for many years, and it has been used in similar courses around the country.

Gross, 65, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1949 and earned the Ph.D. in applied physics from Harvard in 1952. He joined Columbia's faculty after six years as an engineer at Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corp., where he became a world-renowned expert in supersonic combustion and received the Waverly Gold Medal.

He has received numerous honors, including the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Fulbright-Hays Fellowship twice. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

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