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Plasma Science and Fusion Center

Massachusetts Institute of Technology



Senior Research Scientist

richard petrasso Email:
Phone: (617) 253-8458
Address: Room NW17-256
Related links: Physics Research,
High-Energy-Density Group

Dr. Richard Petrasso is a Senior Scientist and co-originator of the High-Energy-Density Physics Division at the Plasma Science and Fusion Center at MIT. With colleagues and students, he has coauthored over 200 technical papers on plasma physics. His recent work focuses on utilizing nuclear reactions and products for illuminating the basic physics of inertial confinement implosions and of high-energy-density laser-plasmas. In this work he, colleagues and students have utilized nuclear monoenergetic particles and associated reactions to discern fields, areal densities, asymmetries, and other important plasma properties of transient high-energy-density plasmas, be they reconnecting plasmas or directly or indirectly driven implosions.

Currently Dr. Petrasso is supporting the supervision of several MIT students who, in addition to working on projects and experiments focused on the Omega facility, are deeply involved in the fielding and analysis of several National Ignition Facility nuclear diagnostics, with which fuel and shell areal density, implosion symmetry, ion temperature, shock and compression bang times (from D3He implosion reactions), and primary yield are discerned. Reflecting this involvement, two of his previous PhD students, Dr. Daniel Casey and Dr. Michael Rosenberg, were the first students to ever utilize, analyze, and include as essential elements and chapters in their PhD theses, data from the National Ignition Facility. In addition, his recent PhD student, Dr. Mario Manuel, was just awarded the highly prestigious and coveted Marshall Rosenbluth Outstanding Doctoral Thesis award by the American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics. Mario is the first PhD student supported by NNSA/DOE grants to ever receive this award.

Dr. Petrasso was also the chair and co-originator of the Omega Laser Users Group (OLUG), which is comprised of over 700 scientists, students, postdocs from 44 universities, 29 Centers and National Laboratories, and 19 different countries. OLUG seeks, with the strong participation of students and young researchers, to promote collaborations among Omega users, to facilitate novel physics experiments at the Omega facility, and to utilize and transfer platforms developed at Omega to the National Ignition Facility as well as to more modest facilities. In achieving these goals, OLUG partners closely with the management and technical staff of the Laboratory of Laser Energetics.

In 2013 Dr. Petrasso received the prestigious Edward Teller Medal, which recognizes pioneering research and leadership in the use of laser and ion-particle beams to produce extraordinarily high-temperature and high-density matter for scientific research and for controlled thermonuclear fusion.  His citation for the award reads: “for pioneering the use of nuclear diagnostics for understanding inertial confinement fusion implosions and high-energy-density physics.” He is also a Fellow of the American Physical Society. 

Dr. Petrasso received his PhD from Brandeis University in experimental atomic physics in 1972, and his B.S. from Oregon State University in 1967.


77 Massachusetts Avenue, NW16, Cambridge, MA 02139,


massachusetts institute of technology