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UK Professor Appointed to Federal Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee

By A Fish 

photo of a professor
Beth Guiton

LEXINGTON, K.Y. --   Beth Guiton, professor of chemistry, Frank J. Derbyshire Professor of Materials Science and director of undergraduate studies in the University of Kentucky’s Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been appointed to join the federal Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee.

The 25-member committee advises the director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science on complex scientific and technological issues that arise in the federal Fusion Energy Sciences program. 

"Studying nuclear fusion reactor materials is a recent, new direction for my research group,” Guiton said. “It is both really exciting and a huge honor to be nominated to serve on this committee.”  

Although her research group is funded through the Department of Energy’s Fusion Energy Sciences program, in some senses she considers herself an outsider in the field.  

“The committee seeks to represent a wide range of relevant expertise and perspectives, though, so as a materials chemist, I was a good fit,” she said. 

Nuclear fusion -- the act of bringing two atoms together, close enough and for long enough that they form a heavier atom -- has the potential to transform the way energy is produced in the United States, she said. 

"The way that a nuclear fusion reactor works is fascinating,” she said. “In order to create energy, the reactor has to produce a burning ball of charged particles similar to the sun called a plasma and hold it in place at around 100 million degrees Celsius, while simultaneously extracting the energy produced and without damaging the materials that make up the reactor. I'm absolutely fascinated by the possible chemical reactions that can occur in a nuclear fusion reactor and in particular how to design materials that can withstand the incredibly harsh conditions necessary to maintain a plasma.” 

Guiton grew up in England and earned bachelor's and master’s degrees at the University of Cambridge. After that, she came to America to study at Harvard, where she earned another master’s degree in chemistry. She earned a Ph.D. in material science and engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008. a Ph.D. in material science and engineering. 

Guiton started her independent research career as a Eugene P. Wigner Fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, where she worked in the world class scanning transmission electron microscopy group under group leader Stephen Pennycook. In 2010 Gution moved to Kentucky and started her own research program in UK’s Department of Chemistry. Guiton’s research group uses microscopy to study the chemistry of nanomaterials in real-time and on the single atom length-scale. 

The Fusion Energy Sciences program seeks to “expand the understanding of matter at very high temperatures and densities and build the knowledge needed to develop a fusion energy source,” according to its website. It is the largest federal government supporter of research that addresses the obstacles to fusion energy. Guiton attended her first FESAC meeting on April 30.