James W. Van Dam
Institute for Fusion Studies


Mailing Address: Campus Address:


The University of Texas at Austin   Robert Lee Moore Bldg. (RLM) 11.222


Institute for Fusion Studies Telephone Contact Information:


1 University Station, C1500   Office: (512) 471-1322


Austin, Texas 78712-0262   Fax: (512) 471-6715
Email: Institute for Fusion Studies Web Page

Research Interests

plasma physics; magnetohydrodynamics; kinetic theory; equilibrium and stability of thermonuclear fusion plasmas

Current Work

Analyzing the effects of alpha particles on MHD stability of ignited plasmas
Analyzing magnetospheric substorm activity related to plasma instabilities


Dr. Van Dam was a visiting member of the Institute for Advanced Studies (Princeton) and then moved with Prof. Marshall Rosenbluth to The University of Texas at Austin when the Institute for Fusion Studies was established in 1980. He has been Associate Director of the IFS since 1986 and Director since 2003.

Dr. Van Dam’s research areas include kinetic theory, MHD, plasma waves, ignition physics, equilibrium and stability in toroidal confinement fusion devices, energetic particles, and magnetospheric physics. He participated in developing the now-standard ballooning mode representation for tokamak stability theory. He predicted a new fundamental stability limit for the bumpy torus device. He applied energetic particle stabilization of ballooning modes in tokamaks. He analyzed the effects of alpha particles on the stability of ideal MHD modes in ignited plasmas: e.g., the theoretical prediction of the destabilization of the Toroidal Alfvén Eigenmode by fusion alpha particles and the calculation of the effect of continuum damping. He has published over 95 papers, plus two books.

He has been the organizer for a number of international workshops. He is chair of the DIII-D Program Advisory Committee, member (and chair until 2008) of the NSTX Program Advisory Committee, and member (until 2009) of the Alcator C-Mod Program Advisory Committee. He also serves on the External Peer Review Committee for the National Institute for Fusion Science (Japan), the International Advisory Committee for the Institute for Fusion Theory and Simulation of Zhejiang University (China), the KSTAR International Advisory Committee (Korea), and the Fachbeirat External Review Panel for the Max-Planck Institute of Plasma Physics. He is the co-chair of the U.S.-Japan Joint Institute for Fusion Theory. In 2007 he was appointed Director of the U.S. Burning Plasma Organization and Chief Scientist for the U.S. ITER Project Office. Dr. Van Dam is a Fellow of the American Physical Society since 1992.

Selected Publications that are representative of Van Dam's work include:

    1. "Revisiting linear gyrokinetics to recover ideal magnetohydrodynamics and missing finite Larmor radius effect," Zheng, L. J.; Kotschenreuther, M. T.; and Van Dam, J. W. Phys. Plasmas 14, 072505 (2007).
    2. "Nonlinear evolution of the firehose instability in a magnetic dipole geotail geometry," Wong, H. Vernon; Xu, B.-Y.; Horton, W.; Pratt, J.; and Van Dam, J. W. Phys. Plasmas 12, 056502 (2005).
    3. "Observation of modes at frequencies near the second Alfvén gap in the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor," Fredrickson, E.; Budny, R. V.; Darrow, D.; Fu, G. Y.; Hosea, J.; Phillips, C. K.; Wilson, J. R.; and Van Dam, J. W. Phys. Plasmas 7, 4121-4125 (2000).
    4. "Multiplicity of low-shear toroidal Alfvén engenmodes," Candy, J.; Breizman, B. N.; Van Dam, J. W.; and Ozeki, T. Phys. Lett. A 215, 299 (1996).
    5. "More on core-localized toroidal Alfvén eigenmodes," Berk, H. L.; Van Dam, J. W.; Borba, D.; Candy, J.; Huysmans, G. T. A.; and Sharapov S. Phys. Plasmas 2, 3401-3406 (1995).
    6. "Contiuum damping of high-mode-number toroidal Alfvén waves," Rosenbluth, M. N.; Berk, H. L.; Van Dam, J. W.; and Lindberg, D. M. Phys. Rev. Lett. 68, 596 (1992).
    7. "Excitation of toroidicity-induced shear Alfvén eigenmode by fusion alpha particles in an ignited tokamak," Fu, G. Y. and Van Dam, J. W. Phys. Fluids B 1, 1949 (1989).
    8. "Energetic particle stabilization of ballooning modes in tokamaks," Rosenbluth, M. N.; Tsai, S. T.; Van Dam, J. W.; and Engquist, M. G. Phys. Rev. Lett. 51, 1967 (1983).
    9. "A generalized kinetic energy principle," Van Dam, J. L.; Rosenbluth, M. N.; and Lee, Y. C. Phys. Fluids 25, 1349 (1982).