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Encouraging the next generation of fusion innovators

The Samuel W. Ing Memorial Fund will support MIT graduate students as they create a more advanced and less costly path to fusion energy solutions.
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Samuel W. Ing (1932–2018)
Samuel W. Ing (1932–2018)
Image courtesy of PSFC.

In memory of MIT alumnus Samuel Ing '53, MS '54, ScD '59, his family has established a memorial fund to support graduate students at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) who are taking part in the center’s push to create a smaller, faster, and less expensive path to fusion energy.

Samuel Ing was born in Shanghai, China in 1932. Mentored by Professor Thomas Sherwood at MIT, he received BS, MS, and ScD degrees in chemical engineering in 1953, 1954, and 1959 respectively. Joining the Xerox Corporation after graduation, he rose from senior scientist, to principal scientist, to senior vice president of the Xerographic Technology Laboratory at the Webster Research Center in Webster, New York. He spent most of his career in western New York State with his wife Mabel, whom he met at an MIT dance. They raised four daughters: Julie, Bonnie, Mimi, and Polly.

An innovator and advocate for new technologies, including desktop publishing, Samuel Ing became intrigued with MIT’s approach to creating fusion energy after attending a talk by PSFC Director Dennis Whyte at the MIT Club in Palo Alto in early 2016. His daughter Emilie “Mimi” Slaughter ’87, SM ’88, who majored in electrical engineering, later expressed her own enthusiasm to her father when, as a member of the School of Engineering Dean’s Advisory Council, she heard Whyte speak in the fall of 2017.

In pursuit of a clean and virtually endless source of energy to fulfill the growing demands around the world, MIT has championed fusion research since the 1970s, designing compact tokamaks that use high magnetic fields to heat and contain the plasma fuel in a donut-shaped vacuum chamber. The PSFC is now working on SPARC, a new high-field, net fusion energy experiment. Researchers are using a thin superconducting tape to create compact electromagnets with fields significantly higher than those available to any other current fusion experiment. These magnets would make it possible to build a smaller, high-field tokamak at less cost, while speeding the quest for fusion energy.

Mimi Slaughter remembers her father’s passion for innovation and entrepreneurship.

“It’s the MIT culture,” she says. “I see that in the fusion lab — the idea of just doing it; figuring out a way to try to make it happen, not necessarily through the traditional channels. I know my Dad agrees. He did that at Xerox. He had his own lab, creating his own desktop copiers. That grew out of what he experienced at MIT.”

The Ing family is celebrating that creative spirit with the Samuel W. Ing Memorial Fund for MIT graduate students who will be driving the research and discovery forward on SPARC. It was a class of PSFC graduate students that proposed the original concept for this experiment, and it will be the young minds with new ideas that, with the support of the fund, will advance fusion research at MIT.

Or as Sam Ing once said: “Very interesting technology. It has a tremendous future, and if anyone can do it, it’s MIT.”

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