Jerry Hughes, MIT

Jerry Hughes

Principal Research Scientist

Deputy Division Head, Magnetic Fusion Experiments





A native of the Atlanta area, Jerry came to MIT in 1993 to study Mathematics and Nuclear Engineering, with a keen interest in the applications of nuclear science to energy generation. His undergraduate research included experimental magnetic fusion projects, as well as support of the inertial fusion program through an internship at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Later he obtained his PhD in Applied Plasma Physics, performing his thesis research on the Alcator C-Mod tokamak, located at the PSFC.

From 2006 to 2016, Jerry coordinated the Pedestal Physics topical research area on Alcator C-Mod. He continues to coordinate Pedestal Physics research for the MFE group at the PSFC, comprising experimental research on a number of domestic and international devices. In connection with this role, he has served on a number of US committees to guide and facilitate DOE sponsored research, and is a member of the International Tokamak Physics Activity, which is charged with addressing high-priority issues for ITER. Additionally, he serves as the DIII-D coordinator for PSFC collaborations, facilitating research projects and new hardware capabilities on this important US fusion facility. 

Jerry and his family reside in Concord, MA.


Jerry has worked in experimental physics on magnetic fusion devices since the late 1990’s, specifically focusing on accessing and sustaining high edge pedestals in tokamaks. For over a decade, he led the Pedestal Physics topical research area on Alcator C-Mod. During this time, C-Mod was instrumental in documenting and understanding the influence of high magnetic fields on the access the high confinement regimes, governed by changes in plasma transport and MHD stability, in the edge pedestal region. Access to high performance regimes without destructive edge instabilities was greatly expanded during this period, helping to pave the way for developing the means to operate future burning plasma devices at high field. 

Today Jerry continues to lead Pedestal Physics research for the Magnetic Fusion Energy group at the PSFC, identifying exciting research opportunities for students and postdocs through our collaborations. A major host facility for our MFE research is the DIII-D tokamak in San Diego, CA. Key research areas for our Pedestal team include edge transport regimes which offer good energy confinement but lack destructive instabilities, the processes of fueling plasma through a particle transport barrier, and the feedback between core and edge physics in setting tokamak parameters.


J.W. Hughes, N.T. Howard, P. Rodriquez-Fernandez et al. "Projections of H-mode access and edge pedestal in the SPARC tokamak" Journal of Plasma Physics, 86, 865860504 (2020).

J.W. Hughes, P.B. Snyder, M.L. Reinke et al. “Access to pedestal pressure relevant to burning plasmas on the high magnetic field tokamak Alcator C-Mod” Nuclear Fusion, 58, 112003 (2018). 

J.W. Hughes, P.B. Snyder, J.R. Walk et al. “Pedestal structure and stability in H-mode and I-mode: a comparative study on Alcator C-Mod” Nuclear Fusion 53, 043016 (2013).

J.W. Hughes, A. Loarte, M.L. Reinke et al. “Power requirements for superior H-mode confinement on Alcator C-Mod: experiments in support of ITER” Nuclear Fusion 51, 083007 (2011).

J.W. Hughes, A.E. Hubbard, G. Wallace et al. “Modification of H-mode pedestal structure with lower hybrid waves on Alcator C-Mod” Nuclear Fusion 50, 064001 (2010).

J.W. Hughes, B. LaBombard, J. Terry et al. “Edge profile stiffness and insensitivity of the density pedestal to neutral fuelling in Alcator C-Mod edge transport barriers” Nuclear Fusion 47, 1057 (2007).

J.W. Hughes, B. LaBombard, D.A. Mossessian et al. “Advances in measurement and modeling of the high-confinement-mode pedestal on the Alcator C-Mod tokamak”, Physics of Plasmas 13, 056103 (2006).