New director of Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory chosen

Steven Crowley

Steven Cowley, a theoretical physicist at Oxford University, has been named the new director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

Cowley will become the seventh director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, which is one of 10 national science laboratories funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. Princeton University has managed the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory since 1951, when professor Lyman Spitzer, a founder of the field of plasma physics, initiated the study of fusion at Princeton University.

The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is located on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro. The laboratory is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy.

As the director of t Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Cowley will be responsible for managing all aspects of the laboratory, including its performance in science, engineering, project management and planning. He will lead the laboratory’s scientific and technical programs in fusion energy science and technology, as well as broader investigations in plasma science.

“Steve Cowley is a spectacularly good physicist and a proven leader of large-scale scientific projects. He understands and respects the missions of the Plasma Physics Laboratory, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and Princeton University,” said Christopher Eisgruber, president of Princeton University. “I am confident that Steve is the right person to take the reins of the laboratory today and guide it into the future.”

Cowley has served as president of Corpus Christi College and as a professor of physics at the University of Oxford since 2016. From 2008 through 2016, he was the chief executive officer of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and head of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy.  From 2004 to 2008, he was director of the Center for Multi-Scale Plasma Dynamics at the University of California-Los Angeles. He served on the faculty of UCLA from 1993 to 2008. From 2001 to 2003, he was professor and head of the plasma physics group at Imperial College London, where he continued with part-time research and teaching until 2016. From 1985 to 1987, he was a senior scientific officer at Culham Laboratory. He has held numerous advisory roles, including membership of the U.K. Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of London and the Royal Academy of Engineering. He holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Oxford University.

Crowley earned his doctorate in astrophysical sciences from Princeton University in 1985 and was a staff scientist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory from 1987 to 1993. He also taught at Princeton University. In his new role, he will be appointed professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University.

“I am delighted, privileged and enthused by the opportunity to lead PPPL,” Cowley said. “We have an exciting program to advance — including an essential upgrade of the innovative fusion experiment, NSTX. Working together with the talented staff of PPPL to hasten the delivery of fusion energy promises to be both scientifically and personally rewarding.”

Crowley will begin his new job on July 1. R. J. Hawryluk has served as the interim director of the laboratory since late 2016. Stewart Prager, the sixth director of the laboratory, stepped down in the fall of 2016.