What is a plasma physicist?
Firstly, it’s important to understand exactly what plasma is. Plasma (not to be confused with the liquid portion of your blood in your body) is the 4th state of matter. It emerges when a gas gets so hot that many of its atoms are split up even further into electrons and ions, which then have the ability to move on their own.
Plasma physicists, therefore, are physicists who conduct experiments to better understand plasma.
Why is the understanding of plasma so important?
Given that so much of the world is made up of plasma, and its so readily available, research is important to see how it can be used to better our universe. So far, we’ve discovered many uses of plasma. For example, plasma cleaning is incredibly effective. Thanks to the UV light it contains, plasma cleaning massively reduces the risk of contamination. Other uses of plasma include: lasers, destruction of toxic waste and particle research.
What are the responsibilities of a plasma physicist?
Firstly, the exact responsibilities depend on which aspect of plasma physics you’re focusing on. For example, many plasma physicists focus on research, planning, designing and conducting experiments, and collecting and analysing the results, to gain a greater understanding of how plasma works.
However, there are also career opportunities in applied plasma, using our understanding of the fundamentals of plasma physics to solve problems in society. For instance, plasma physicists work in the healthcare sector, researching the potential use of plasma for hospital-grade sanitation. Plasma physicists are also employed by energy companies, who are interested in using plasma to develop more sustainable and efficient energy sources.
Overall, general responsibilities include: building and maintaining specialised plasma measuring equipment, performing data analysis and working with other specialists, such as consultants and other physicists.
What skills do I need to be a successful plasma physicist?
Firstly, teamwork is key. You’ll be working with different people to understand the different uses of plasma: for example, as an applied plasma physicist, you’ll be working with those focused on research. Thus, you’ll need to communicate effectively and take time to understand everyone’s perspective, to make the project a success.
Problem solving skills are also important, to come up with creative ways to design experiments or use plasma in different ways.
Finally, as you’ll be working with computer systems to test plasma’s properties, IT skills are key.
What qualifications do I need to be a successful plasma physicist?
To qualify as a plasma physicist, it’s a good idea to have a strong understanding of physics and maths. The vast majority of plasma physicists in permanent positions have a PhD.