Steven Cowley

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Steve Cowley
Cowley in 2014
7th Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Assumed office
1 July 2018
PresidentDonald Trump
Joe Biden
Preceded byRichard J. Hawryluk (interim)
31st President of the Corpus Christi College
In office
1 October 2016 – 30 September 2018
Preceded byRichard Carwardine
Succeeded byHelen Moore
Personal details
Steven Charles Cowley

1959 (age 64–65)
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England[1]
ChildrenSean Cowley and Brendan Cowley
Alma mater
Known forFusion power
AwardsKnight Bachelor (2018)
Glazebrook Medal (2012)[2]
Harkness Fellowship (1981–83)
Scientific career
ThesisSome Aspects of Anomalous Transport in Tokamaks: Stochastic Magnetic Fields, Tearing Modes and Nonlinear Ballooning Instabilities (Convection) (1985)
Doctoral advisorRussell Kulsrud[4]

Sir Steven Charles Cowley FRS FREng FInstP (born 1959)[citation needed] is a British theoretical physicist and international authority on nuclear fusion and astrophysical plasmas. He has served as director of the United States Department of Energy (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) since 1 July 2018.[5] Previously he served as president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, since October 2016.[6] and head of the EURATOM / CCFE Fusion Association and chief executive officer of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA).[6]


Cowley won a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Oxford and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physics in 1981.[6] He went on to study at Princeton University as a Harkness Fellow and was awarded a PhD in 1985 for research into tokamaks supervised by Russell Kulsrud.[4][7][8][9]

Career and research[edit]

Following his PhD, Cowley completed postdoctoral research at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE). He returned to Princeton in 1987 and joined the faculty at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in 1993, becoming full professor in 2000. At Imperial College, London, Cowley led the plasma physics group from 2001 to 2003, while also serving as a part-time professor.[10][11] He was appointed as the head of the EURATOM / CCFE Fusion Association in September 2008 and as CEO of UKAEA in November 2009.

On 18 March 2015, he was elected the 31st President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, his alma mater: he took up the post on 1 October 2016. He is the first scientist to hold the post.[12]

On 1 July 2018, he was appointed director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL).[13]

Cowley's research interests are in plasmas and nuclear fusion, in astrophysical plasmas and the laboratory, such as the Joint European Torus (JET) and the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).[3][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21] His research has been funded by Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).[22][23] Cowley co-chaired the National Academy of Sciences assessment of plasma science in the United States.[24][25][26]

Awards and honours[edit]

Cowley was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2014. His biography reads;

Steven Cowley is a leading plasma theorist and currently chief executive officer at the UK Atomic Energy Authority. Much of his research career has been devoted to modelling and understanding plasma turbulence in nuclear fusion, a phenomenon that must be controlled to achieve stable fusion.

Nuclear fusion will offer future generations a cleaner and safer source of energy and has the potential to meet the majority of the world's energy demands. At present, however, more energy is required to feed the process than can be produced. Steven is leading the UK's participation in ITER, an experimental reactor that is set to make nuclear fusion commercially viable.

Steven's interest in plasmas extends to those found on a large scale throughout the Universe. He showed that these astrophysical plasmas also invariably exhibit turbulence, which amplifies and shapes their magnetic fields. Steven presented a 2009 TED talk entitled Fusion is Energy's Future and received the 2012 Glazebrook Medal from the Institute of Physics, which rewards leadership in a physics context.[27]

His certificate of election reads:

Professor Cowley is currently chief executive officer at the UK Atomic Energy Authority and Professor at Imperial College. Over the last twenty years he has played a leading role in developing the multi-scale approach to computing the plasma turbulence in fusion experiments. Now such computations routinely reproduce experimental results. Multi-scale computational tools will be central to the successful development of fusion power. He discovered a key mechanism for the observed explosive eruptions from confined plasmas. Using analysis and computations Cowley and collaborators have shown that astrophysical plasmas are invariably turbulent. They have described the multi-scale spectra and structure of this turbulence and how it amplifies and shapes the magnetic field in the large scale plasmas of the universe.[28]

Cowley was also elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) in 1998,[29] the Institute of Physics (FInstP) in 2004[30] and the Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng) in 2014.[31] He was awarded and honorary fellowship of the Institute of Engineering and Technology in 2015. In 2011, he was appointed to the UK Government's Council for Science and Technology.[32]

In the 2018 Birthday Honours, Cowley was appointed a Knight Bachelor for services to science and to the development of nuclear fusion.[33] In July 2019, Cowley was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Science (honoris causa) by the University of Lancaster for his standing as the international authority on fusion energy.[34]


  1. ^ England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1916-2007
  2. ^ "Professor Steven Cowley FREng FRS". Archived from the original on 20 December 2014.
  3. ^ a b Steven Cowley publications indexed by Google Scholar Edit this at Wikidata
  4. ^ a b Steven Cowley at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  5. ^ "Steven Cowley named director of DOE's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory". Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. 16 May 2018. Retrieved 16 June 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ a b c Anon (2016). "Cowley, Prof. Steven". Who's Who (online Oxford University Press ed.). Oxford: A & C Black. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U261946. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  7. ^ Cowley, Steven Charles (1985). Some Aspects of Anomalous Transport in Tokamaks: Stochastic Magnetic Fields, Tearing Modes and Nonlinear Ballooning Instabilities (Convection) (PhD thesis). Princeton University. OCLC 77633911. ProQuest 303381032.
  8. ^ "Professor Steve Cowley". Culham Centre for Fusion Energy. Archived from the original on 16 April 2015.
  9. ^ Steven Cowley at TED
  10. ^ "Chief Executive Officer, Professor Steven Cowley". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  11. ^ Davies, Sean (16 May 2011). "Q and A – Steve Cowley – Culham Centre for Fusion Energy". E&T: Engineering and Technology Magazine. 6 (5). The Institution of Engineering and Technology. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014.
  12. ^ "Corpus announces the election of its next President". Oxford: Corpus Christi College. Archived from the original on 21 April 2015.
  13. ^ "Steven Cowley named director of DOE's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory". 16 May 2018. Archived from the original on 16 May 2018.
  14. ^ Steven Cowley publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  15. ^ Ham, C J; Connor, J W; Cowley, S C; Hastie, R J; Hender, T C; Liu, Y Q (2013). "The role of pressure flattening in calculating tearing mode stability". Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion. 55 (12): 125015. arXiv:1308.2070. Bibcode:2013PPCF...55l5015H. doi:10.1088/0741-3335/55/12/125015. ISSN 0741-3335. S2CID 119516411.
  16. ^ Schekochihin, A. A.; Cowley, S. C.; Dorland, W.; Hammett, G. W.; Howes, G. G.; Quataert, E.; Tatsuno, T. (2009). "Astrophysical Gyrokinetics: Kinetic and Fluid Turbulent Cascades in Magnetized Weakly Collisional Plasmas". The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series. 182 (1): 310–377. arXiv:0704.0044. Bibcode:2009ApJS..182..310S. doi:10.1088/0067-0049/182/1/310. ISSN 0067-0049. S2CID 119630468.
  17. ^ Schekochihin, Alexander A.; Cowley, Steven C.; Taylor, Samuel F.; Maron, Jason L.; McWilliams, James C. (2004). "Simulations of the Small-Scale Turbulent Dynamo". The Astrophysical Journal. 612 (1): 276–307. arXiv:astro-ph/0312046. Bibcode:2004ApJ...612..276S. doi:10.1086/422547. ISSN 0004-637X. S2CID 119444289.
  18. ^ Cole, M D J; Newton, S L; Cowley, S C; Loureiro, N F; Dickinson, D; Roach, C; Connor, J W (2014). "Electromagnetic effects in the stabilization of turbulence by sheared flow". Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion. 56 (1): 015007. arXiv:1308.0989. Bibcode:2014PPCF...56a5007C. doi:10.1088/0741-3335/56/1/015007. ISSN 0741-3335. S2CID 118432893.
  19. ^ Hammett, G W; Beer, M A; Dorland, W; Cowley, S C; Smith, S A (1993). "Developments in the gyrofluid approach to Tokamak turbulence simulations" (PDF). Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion. 35 (8): 973–985. Bibcode:1993PPCF...35..973H. doi:10.1088/0741-3335/35/8/006. ISSN 0741-3335. S2CID 250771660.
  20. ^ Howes, Gregory G.; Cowley, Steven C.; Dorland, William; Hammett, Gregory W.; Quataert, Eliot; Schekochihin, Alexander A. (2006). "Astrophysical Gyrokinetics: Basic Equations and Linear Theory". The Astrophysical Journal. 651 (1): 590–614. arXiv:astro-ph/0511812. Bibcode:2006ApJ...651..590H. doi:10.1086/506172. ISSN 0004-637X. S2CID 15344422.
  21. ^ Beer, M. A.; Cowley, S. C.; Hammett, G. W. (1995). "Field-aligned coordinates for nonlinear simulations of tokamak turbulence". Physics of Plasmas. 2 (7): 2687. Bibcode:1995PhPl....2.2687B. CiteSeerX doi:10.1063/1.871232. ISSN 1070-664X.
  22. ^ "Grants awarded to Steven Cowley, EURATOM/CCFE". Swindon: Research Councils UK. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  23. ^ "Grants awarded to Steven Cowley, Imperial College London". Swindon: Research Councils UK. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  24. ^ Plasma Science: Advancing Knowledge in the National Interest (National Academy Press 2007) ISBN 0309109396
  25. ^ Steven Cowley: Fusion is energy's future, TED talk on YouTube, 2009-12-22
  26. ^ Fusion energy with Professor Steven Cowley, Institute of Physics on YouTube
  27. ^ Anon (2014). "Professor Steven Cowley FREng FRS". Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the website where:

    "All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License." --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)

  28. ^ "Professor Steven Cowley FRS, Chief Executive Officer, UK Atomic Energy Authority". London: The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 5 August 2014.
  29. ^ "List of Fellows of the American Physical Society". Retrieved 23 April 2021.
  30. ^ "Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory profile". Retrieved 23 April 2021.
  31. ^ "List of Fellows of the Royal Academy of Engineering". Retrieved 23 April 2021.
  32. ^ "UKAEA Steven Cowley to advise UK government". ITER. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
  33. ^ "No. 62310". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 June 2018. p. B2.
  34. ^ "Honorary degree for Professor Sir Steven Cowley". Lancaster University. Retrieved 18 July 2019.

 This article incorporates text available under the CC BY 4.0 license.

Academic offices
Preceded by 31st President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford
2016 – 2018
Helen Moore
Preceded by
Richard J. Hawryluk (interim)
7th Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
2018 – present