Stewart Prager
Stewart Prager
Office of Communications

The University selected Stewart Prager, a noted fusion-energy researcher,  to lead the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab as the Department of Energy opened the first-ever bidding process to manage and operate the lab.

Prager, a physics professor and director of the Madison Symmetric Torus experiment at the University of Wisconsin, is expected to begin work as the lab’s sixth director in December.  He will succeed Robert J. Goldston *77, who announced in December that he planned to step down.

“Stewart Prager is not only a superb scientist, but also a proven leader of the nation’s fusion-research community,” said University Provost Christopher Eisgruber ’83.

The July 18 announcement came two weeks after the Department of Energy issued its request for proposals for the competitive selection of a contractor to run the lab, which has been operated by the University since it was created in 1951. Proposals were due to the DOE by Sept. 8. The five-year contract can be extended for an additional five years. The DOE has placed the operation of national laboratories across the country out to bid in recent years. 

“It is of the highest importance to the University and the country to have a flourishing national laboratory whose mission is to harness fusion energy,” said A.J. Stewart Smith *66, Princeton’s dean for research.

Prager said in an interview that the Princeton facility has “a tradition of being a premier lab — from the very beginning, the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab has been a world leader.” He noted that the lab has had a difficult past year and that the DOE’s cancellation of the lab’s National Compact Stellerator Experiment, after an investment of nearly $100 million, has been a “dispiriting experience.” But Prager said the lab is “shifting to a more hopeful mode” as it looks to a proposed expansion of its flagship National Spherical Torus Experiment, which he said is still producing “very rich” research findings.