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PPPL: Ruben Fair, accomplished engineering expert, to lead PPPL’S ITER Projects Team


Ruben J. Fair, an accomplished engineer who has been leading the Magnet Group at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Jefferson Lab, has been named head of the ITER Department at the DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), Craig Ferguson, PPPL deputy director of operations and chief operating officer, announced today.

Fair, an electrical engineer with expertise in superconducting magnets and permanent magnet machines, will lead PPPL’s team responsible for the design and construction of diagnostic instruments for the international fusion experiment ITER under construction in Cadarache, France. His appointment begins Aug. 16 and he replaces Hutch Neilson, who is stepping down as head of ITER Diagnostics.

“Ruben is a high caliber engineer with vast experience leading technical groups and in the engineering of complex machinery,” Ferguson said. “We are extremely fortunate to have him join us to oversee the development of these crucial diagnostic systems. He is exactly the right professional we need in this role.”

“It is a really interesting project and what Princeton is doing with that project is also really fascinating,” Fair said. “Diagnostics is an area I haven’t worked on before, so it’s an opportunity to learn something new but also apply what I already know in terms of leadership and project management.”

Neilson has overseen PPPL’s contributions to ITER on behalf of US ITER for the past several years.

The 20-member PPPL-ITER team now is focused on the design and fabrication of six diagnostics, involving more than $200 million of work by PPPL and its subcontractors, that are part of the U.S. contribution to ITER. The diagnostics are needed to measure the hot super-charged gas called plasma under the conditions of a self-sustaining or burning plasma, which ITER will produce for the first time. The first diagnostic equipment to be delivered and the one that PPPL has been working on for the past three years is for a microwave reflectometer called the low field side reflectometer (LFSR).

Ferguson praised Neilson’s leadership of the ITER Projects Team. “We are very grateful for Hutch’s leadership of the ITER Projects team and are glad Hutch will be assisting Ruben during this transition,” Ferguson said.

“I’m looking forward to working with Ruben and supporting him throughout the transition,” Neilson said. “Our Diagnostics work has come through a critical phase, but an excellent team of PPPL engineers and subcontractors is now in place and ready to move forward under Ruben’s leadership.”

Fair has been at Jefferson Lab in Newport News, Virginia, since 2013, when he started as principal engineer. He led a team overseeing the design, construction, installation, and commissioning of eight superconducting magnets for the 12 GeV accelerator upgrade project, and then went on to lead the Magnet Group within the Experimental Nuclear Physics Division, his most recent appointment.

Prior to his work at Jefferson Lab, Fair worked at the General Electric Global Research Center in Niskayuna, New York, where he developed a strategic road map for a range of superconducting machines. While there, he led a team which was awarded funding from the DOE to design a 10 MW superconducting wind turbine generator.

Prior to that, at Converteam (now GE Power Conversion) in Rugby, United Kingdom, he led a team of engineers to develop the world’s first high temperature superconducting hydrogenerator, and also set up a Cryogenics Laboratory. While at Oxford Instruments in Oxford, United Kingdom, Fair led a team of engineers developing superconducting magnets and ultra-low temperature refrigerators for the physics community. He also worked on a range of new superconducting magnets, including the world’s first persistent 21Tesla, 900-MHz NMR magnet.

Fair received a Bachelor of Science degree, with honors, and a doctorate degree in electrical engineering from the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London, United Kingdom, in 1985 and 1991, respectively. He has contributed a chapter to “High Temperature Superconductors (HTS) for Energy Applications” (Woodhead Publishing, 2011). He has publications in review journals and holds multiple patents. He is a technical editor and reviewer for the IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity; a chartered engineer and a member of the Institute of Engineering and Technology, U.K., and also a senior member of the IEEE, US. He also is a mentor for the Global Talent Mentoring organization, which promotes and supports education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medical sciences (STEMM) internationally.

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