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ANN ARBOR, Mich.---Plasma science is essential to many areas of national interest, including healthcare, energy, homeland security and the semiconductor industry.  A new certificate program in plasma science and engineering at the University of Michigan (U-M) aims to bring together resources and expertise from across campus to create a formal, eclectic, interdisciplinary program for students interested in this pervasive field.

Michigan will become one of just a few universities across the nation offering a formal program in plasma science and engineering. Graduate students trained in the discipline are in high demand worldwide.

Plasma-based particle accelerators are poised to provide table-top x-ray sources for radiation therapy and diagnostics. Advances in solar cells will rely on plasma fabrication processes. Plasmas are essential to the manufacture of  many high-performance aircraft. And they are central to the production of microelectronic circuits.

In addition, plasmas comprise the vast majority of the known universe that is not dark matter.

“Plasma science and engineering is making enormous intellectual contributions to our science base and impressive contributions to our technology infrastructure,” said Mark J. Kushner, the George I. Haddad Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and director of the Michigan Institute for Plasma Science and Engineering.

“This is an interdisciplinary field and the common threads are the study of fundamental plasma processes and the application of those processes to investigating natural phenomena and developing technologies that benefit society. Our certificate program will create links among the diverse approaches to this field and so will broaden graduate students’ experiences.”

At U-M, plasma science and engineering touches many departments, including the fields of astronomy, physics, electrical engineering, nuclear engineering, atmospheric science, space science, materials science, mathematics, and mechanical engineering. Courses and professors in these areas will be involved in the new program.

The Graduate Certificate in Plasma Science and Engineering will be available in Fall 2009. It will be open to current doctoral students and master’s students on a doctoral track in any science or engineering department at the University of Michigan.

Once accepted to the program, students will complete 15 graduate credit hours in the fundamentals and applications of plasma science and engineering. They will conduct research on a topic closely related to plasma science and engineering, participate in an annual research symposium and complete an internship with an industrial affiliate of the Michigan Institute for Plasma Science and Engineering, among other requirements.

Large segments of the workforce in industry and national laboratories having plasma expertise will retire in the next decade, Kushner says. And two of the largest plasma physics facilities ever built---the National Ignition Facility and the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor---will soon open.

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About Michigan Engineering: The University of Michigan College of Engineering is one of the top engineering schools in the country. Eight academic departments are ranked in the nation's top 10 -- some twice for different programs. Its research budget is one of the largest of any public university. Its faculty and students are making a difference at the frontiers of fields as diverse as nanotechnology, sustainability, healthcare, national security and robotics. They are involved in spacecraft missions across the solar system, and have developed partnerships with automotive industry leaders to transform transportation. Its entrepreneurial culture encourages faculty and students alike to move their innovations beyond the laboratory and into the real world to benefit society. Its alumni base of more than 75,000 spans the globe.

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