Physics major Rayan Sud ‘21 traveled to southern France to conduct research at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), a nuclear fusion megaproject, through a grant offered by the France-Stanford Center for Interdisciplinary Studies. ITER is a collaboration between 35 countries to build the world’s largest tokamak, an experimental device designed to prove the viability of fusion as a carbon-free source of energy.
“I have always been interested in physics and working at ITER seemed like the perfect combination of my love for physics and my desire to combat climate change,” he said. “I applied for the grant so that I would be able to support myself during my work at ITER, while experiencing Provencal culture and being a part of the international fusion community.”
Working at the Stability and Controls Office in ITER's Science Division, Sud developed synthetic magnetic diagnostics to simulate measurements of plasma scenarios. Through his time at ITER (pictured left), he expanded his knowledge of computational physics, witnessed firsthand the process of managing a large-scale energy project, and learned about fusion through lectures and conversations with his colleagues.
Outside of work, he had the opportunity to explore the quaint town of Aix-en-Provence and its picturesque surrounding. “There is a street market every single day, with incredible fresh fruits, baked goods, and cheeses,” he said. Sud especially enjoyed attending an open-air concert at the Festival International d'Art Lyrique d'Aix-en-Provence, a month-long music festival that takes place every summer.
“Another particularly memorable moment for me was when I finished a long hike in Le Calanques, in peak afternoon heat … and was rewarded with a cove at the end, complete with unbelievably clear azure water,” he added.
Torn between pursuing a career in academia or industry, Sud is grateful to his experience in France, which allowed him to explore the possibility of working in fusion research and development. “The grant … has encouraged me to investigate the field further and allowed me to make a more informed career choice.”