Sen Named Fellow by Engineering Electronics Group

Columbia University Record
Vol. 20, No. 28

Amiya K. Sen, professor of electrical engineering and applied physics, has been elected a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for his work in plasma physics related to controlled thermonuclear fusion.

The honor is one of the highest attainable in engineering in the United States. Sen was honored "for contributions to the production, identification, analysis and feedback control of plasma instabilities related to fusion."

The presentation was made Feb. 17 at the IEEE's annual dinner in New York. Election as Fellow of the IEEE is limited to those who have made outstanding contributions to electrical and electronics engineering. Sen was one of 248 new Fellows elected from a worldwide IEEE membership of well over 300,000.

He has been a prominent scientist working in the physics and technology of plasmas--hot, ionized gases that, after solids, liquids and gases, constitute a fourth state of matter.

Under certain conditions of high pressure and temperature, light isotopes of hydrogen can fuse to form helium nuclei, releasing enormous amounts of energy and replicating the process that heats the sun and other stars.

But plasmas are notoriously unstable, always producing minor fluctuations that sometimes disrupt the fusion process. These instabilities constitute a significant roadblock in the achievement of controlled thermonuclear fusion as a source of power.

Sen has made plasma instabilities his primary research focus and was the first to conduct detailed parametric studies of several common instabilities and their transport consequences.

At present, fusion devices have no control systems to suppress fluctuations. Professor Sen has led pioneering collaborative research in the feedback control of plasma instabilities by devising a unique system, in which lumped parameter control engineering concepts have been applied to a distributed parameter plasma system.

Sen graduated from the Indian Institute of Science in 1952 and earned the master's degree from MIT and the Ph.D. from Columbia. He joined the Columbia faculty as assistant professor of electrical engineering in 1963 and was appointed associate professor in 1966 and full professor in 1974. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and has been a consultant to the National Science Foundation, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy.

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