NEWS | April 25, 2011

Dr. Thomas Mehlhorn Elected to APS Executive Committee

By Dom Panciarelli

Dr. Thomas Mehlhorn, superintendent of the Plasma Physics Division at the Naval Research Laboratory, was recently elected to the Executive Committee of the American Physical Society (APS) Division of Plasma Physics (DPP). Members of the Executive Committee serve a three-year term.

In this capacity, Mehlhorn will join Dr. Christine Coverdale, of Sandia National Laboratory, and Dr. David S. Montgomery, of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The objective of the DPP is to promote the advancement and dissemination of the knowledge, understanding and applications of plasmas-assemblages of charged particles of natural and laboratory origin.

Mehlhorn received his bachelor's and master's degrees in nuclear engineering and a doctorate in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan, in 1974, 1976 and 1978 respectively.

He began his career at Sandia National Laboratories in 1978, as a member of technical staff and worked on a variety of projects related to the generation, focusing, and interaction of intense beams of electrons and ions with plasmas. In 1989, Mehlhorn was promoted to department manager, with accountability for intense ion beam research for inertial confinement fusion (ICF). From 1998 to 2006, he managed the High Energy Density Physics and ICF Target Design department, including integrated target design, the development of a theoretical understanding of x-ray power scaling from Z-pinches; and the development of radiation-MHD, and hybrid plasma physics simulation tools. Mehlhorn also managed a Grand Challenge LDRD project, studying advanced fusion concepts, their non-proliferation concerns, application to neutron effects testing, and use as a source for transmuting nuclear waste.

In 2006, Mehlhorn was promoted to a senior manager position in the Pulsed Power Sciences Center at Sandia, where he was the programmatic lead for research in the science campaigns for the National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA), and managed four departments performing research and development in dynamic materials and shock physics, high energy density physics theory and modeling, advanced radiographic source development, and the application of radiographic machines to subcritical experiments at the Nevada Test Site.

He joined NRL in 2009, where he assumed his present position. In this capacity, he oversees a broad-spectrum of research in experimental and theoretical plasma physics, laboratory discharge and space plasmas, intense electron and ion beam, laser fusion, ultra-short-pulse lasers, atomic physics, plasma processing, pulsed power sources, EM rail-guns, radiation hydrodynamics, high-power microwaves, advanced spectral diagnostics, and nonlinear systems.

Melhorn's awards include: an NRL Alan Berman Research Publication Award in 1983; a Sandia Award for Excellence in 1995, For achieving a lithium beam focal intensity of 2 TW/cm2; the 2004 Engineering Alumni Society Merit Award in Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences from the University of Michigan; the Lockheed Martin NOVA award as manager of the team that produced thermonuclear fusion at Sandia's Z machine; and two NNSA Defense Programs Award of Excellence in 2007 and 2008; Merit Award in Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences from the University of Michigan; and the Lockheed Martin NOVA award as manager of the team that produced thermonuclear fusion at Sandia's Z machine.

He serves on the Advisory Board for Plasma and Atomic Physics, at GSI, Darmstadt, Germany, (2004 to present, Chair 2006) and on the Nuclear Engineering Advisory Board of The University of Michigan (1996 to 1999), (2004 to present). Since 2009, he has been a member of the University of Michigan College of Engineering Alumni Society Board of Governors. In 2010, Mehlhorn served on the Dept. of the Navy (DoN), Space Experiments Review Board, as well as the University of Missouri, Research and Development Advisory Board. Also, in 2010, Mehlhorn was elected to the National Research Council (NRC) Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences (DEPS) panel.

Melhorn is a member of the American Physical Society (APS), the American Geophysical Union (AGU), a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The APS was founded in 1899, to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics. The Society is active in public and governmental affairs, and in the international physics community. In addition, the APS conducts extensive programs in education, public outreach, and media relations. The Society has fourteen divisions and nine topical groups covering all areas of physics research. There are six forums that reflect the interest of its 46,000 members in broader issues, and eight sections organized by geographical region.