Student Profile: Joseph Abbate ’18 uses statistics to more accurately measure fusion plasma

Tuesday, Oct 16, 2018
by Sharon Adarlo

Joseph Abbate, 22, Class of 2018:

 

Studies:

Abbate earned his bachelor’s degree in physics along with five certificates - from the Center for Statistics and Machine Learning, the Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics, Program in Applications of Computing, Program in Engineering Physics, and Spanish. This fall, he started his doctoral studies in plasma physics at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL).

 

Research:

Abbate, who’s been interested in energy and climate change since middle school, entered Princeton with the idea he would become a chemical engineer and perhaps work on biofuels. But he changed his mind after taking a writing seminar with Andrew Zwicker, head of PPPL’s Office of Communications & Public Outreach, and an assemblyman in the New Jersey Legislature.

“[Fusion research] has a lot of interesting physics and there is a lot of room for new ideas because so much of it is in a developmental stage,” he said.

During the summer before his senior year, he spent time in the United Kingdom, between Oxford University and Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, working on a novel Bayesian analysis code to try to get more accurate and less opaque measurements on plasma fusion devices.

This work led to his independent project work for the CSML certificate. He helped develop a neural network that could be used to predict instabilities in fusion reactors called FRNN.

In the future, Abbate hopes he will be able to work on plasma research at a national lab, or in the ideal scenario, be part of the future commercial fusion business.

 

Extracurricular activities:

Abbate spent this summer participating in the Data Science for Social Good program at the University of Washington. He used data science to tackle social issues. He promotes climate policy research with the Princeton Student Climate Initiative. He was a tutor and teaching assistant. As a grad student at PPPL, he is a volunteer teacher with the Prison Teaching Initiative.

 

For fun:

Abbate likes to read and do calisthenics.