Brian Kraus joined the program in 2014 and has since been wrestling with the inherent confusion of experimental physics. He grew up in Palmer Lake, Colorado and attended the University of Alabama. His undergraduate career included enduring a tornado that convinced him against majoring in International Studies; spending a summer in Chișinău, Moldova; studying Chinese at Sichuan University; calibrating detectors with muons; semesters of proudly steering the Mallet Assembly; and learning what research means at the DIII-D tokamak in San Diego, California. It was this final experience that sent Brian careening into a degree in plasma physics.
Since his start at PPPL, Brian has been involved in several research projects. First was heating thin wires to molten temperatures to diagnose low-temperature plasmas in the Hall Thruster laboratory with Dr. Yevgeny Raitses. Next was an apprenticeship under Dr. Stuart Hudson studying connections between highly irrational numbers and toroidal confinement. Finally, Brian joined the X-Ray Spectroscopy Group under Dr. Philip Efthimion, aiming to study laser-produced plasmas via the x-rays they emit. Short pulse lasers tend to create plasmas that are tiny (microns) and short-lived (picoseconds), but also bright—and highly-ionized metals are brightest at high energies, eg., in the x-ray. This thesis work has taken Brian to laser facilities at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Colorado State University, to machine shops and cleanrooms, and to a new appreciation for spherically-bent crystals.
Alongside research, interests have included playing ping pong, giving tours of PPPL, petting dogs and cats, considering the ethics of the scientific endeavor (with Princeton Citizen Scientists), gardening, and hosting an FM science radio show on Princeton’s own WPRB.