Miklos Porkolab

Professor of Physics, Post-Tenure
Fundamental studies of nonlinear wave-particle interactions and turbulence in laboratory plasmas. Pioneered RF current drive in tokamak plasmas.
(617) 253-8448
Office: NW16-288
Affiliated Center(s): MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center
Assistant: Carol Arlington
Assistant Phone: (617) 253-8106

Research Interests

Radio frequency heating and current drive in tokamak plasmas. Studies of turbulence with Phase Contrast Imaging in tokamak and stellarator plasmas. 

Biographical Sketch

Professor Miklos Porkolab was born in Budpest, Hungary, and emigrated to Canada in 1957, where he received his BASc degree in Engineering Physics at the University of British Columbia in 1963. He continued his graduate studies as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at Stanford University where he obtained the Ph.D. degree in Applied Physics in 1967. Thereafter he joined the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory as a Research Associate where he rose to the position of Senior Research Physicist and Lecturer with the rank of Professor in the Astrophysical Sciences Department in 1975. While at Princeton University, Professor Porkolab carried out fundamental experimental and theoretical research in the area of nonlinear wave-wave and wave-particle interactions in laboratory plasmas, followed by studying parametric instabilities in high power RF wave-plasma heating experiments in tokamak fusion plasmas. During his sabbatical, from 1976 -1977, Professor Porkolab continued these studies at the Max Planck Institute in Garching, Germany, under the auspices of the Humboldt Foundation as a winner of the “US Senior Scientist Award.” In 1977, he joined MIT as a full professor in the Physics Department where in addition to teaching plasma physics, he has led several pioneering experiments in radio frequency heating and non-inductive current drive on the Versator II, the Alcator C and the C-Mod tokamaks. From 1991–2001 he served as Editor of Physics Letters A, Plasma Physics and Fluid Dynamics subsection. He also represented the U. S. Plasma Physics community for six years on the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) Commission–16 (Plasma Physics) (1991-1997). From 1992–95, he served as a member of the National Research Council Subpanel on Plasma Science. In 1998, he served as Vice-Chair, and in 1999 as Chair, Plasma Physics Division, American Physical Society. From 1990-1995 he served as Associate Director, and form 1995 to 2014, as the Director of the Plasma Science and Fusion Center at MIT.

At MIT he taught courses in plasma physics and supervised the Ph.D studies of dozens of graduate students. In addition, he has served on various advisory committees to most international fusion programs, including Hungary, Switzerland, China, and Korea, as well as to US ERDA and DOE programs. Over the years has has been a consultant to the Bell Telephone Laboratories, the Spire Corporation, the Westinghouse Corporation, the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, the Lawrence National Laboratory, and to General Atomics, San Diego, CA, where he continues to the present day. In 2018 he retired from teaching and continues to carry on with his research activities in in the Department as “Professor-Post-Tenure.” At present he is the P.I. of four DOE Grants supervising the work of 7 research scientists and/or post-docs on magnetic fusion experiments at the DIII-D tokamak at General Atomics, San Diego, CA, at the JET tokamak, Culham Research Center, Oxfordshire, UK and at the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator at the Max Planck Institute in Greifswald, Germany. The focus of these experiments is to measure plasma turbulence and high power RF waves with phase contrast imaging diagnostic, as well as to understand Alfven wave phenomena in DT burning plasmas in JET.

Awards & Honors

  • 2016 // Hungarian Academy of Sciences External member
  • 2013 // Hannes Alfvén Prize of the European Physical Society
  • 2010 // Fusion Power Associates Distinguished Career Award
  • 2009 // James Clerk Maxwell Prize for Plasma Physics (APS) "for pioneering investigations of linear and nonlinear plasma waves and wave-particle interactions; fundamental contributions to the development of plasma heating, current drive and diagnostics; and leadership in promoting plasma science education and domestic and international collaborations."
  • 2007 // Karoly Simony Memorial Plaque and Prize by the Hungarian Nuclear Society
  • 2005 // American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow honored for “pioneering experimental and theoretical research in nonlinear dynamics of plasmas and for leadership in advancing controlled fusion.
  • 1984 // John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Research (APS) "For the experimental demonstration of start-up, ramp-up and sustainment of toroidal currents by lower hybrid wave."
  • 1976 // Humboldt Prize, West German Government
  • 1975 // American Physical Society Fellow
  • 1963 // Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, Stanford University

Key Publications

  • “Plasma Instabilities Due to Ion Temperature Gradients”, Miklos Porkolab, Nucl. Fusion 8, 29-36 (1968).

  • “Nonlinear Wave Effects in Laboratory Plasmas: A Comparison Between Theory and Experiment”, M. Porkolab and R.P.H. Chang, Reviews of Modern Phys. 50, 745 (1978).

  • M. Porkolab, J. Dorris, P. Ennever, et al, “Turbulence and transport studies in the linear ohmic confinement regime in Alcator C-Mod, ” in Plasma Phys. Control. Fusion 54, 124029 (2012).