Sean Ballinger

Graduate Student


Sean Ballinger is a PhD student at MIT's department of Nuclear Science and Engineering interested in developing fusion into a clean energy source. His research is in characterizing turbulence at the edge of plasmas in the W7-X stellarator in Germany. He has contributed to the MIT fast camera and gas puff imaging projects on W7-X. As an undergraduate, Sean was involved in fusion research at Columbia University's High-Beta Tokamak, DIII-D, and Alcator C-Mod.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Expected 2021
Doctor of Philosophy Candidate in Nuclear Science and Engineering with a focus on Plasma Fusion

Columbia University, New York, New York, 2016
Bachelor of Science in Applied Physics with a minor in Computer Science

Awards and honors

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Honorable Mention, 2016 
APS-DPP Outstanding Undergraduate Poster Award, 2014
Robert Gross Scholarship in Applied Physics, 2014–16
NASA Aeronautics Scholarship Undergraduate Awardee, 2013–15
Columbia University Egleston Research Scholar, 2012–16 
Intel Science Talent Search Semifinalist, 2012

Personal Website


MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center, 2016–Present
PhD Candidate, Plasma Boundary Group and W7-X Collaboration
Contributed to the installation, operation, and data analysis of the MIT high-speed camera on the W7-X stellarator. Currently preparing the MIT gas-puff imaging diagnostic for edge turbulence analysis in W7-X.

MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center, Summer 2015
Egleston Scholarship Intern
Operated and analyzed data from a high-speed camera imaging plasma turbulence in the X-point region of the Alcator C-Mod tokamak.

General Atomics DIII-D, Summer 2014
National Undergraduate Fellowship Intern
Augmented a simulation of the KSTAR tokamak with a feedback plasma control system and automated the tuning of its PID controller gain settings.

NASA Ames Research Center, Summer 2013
New York Space Grant Intern
Ran fluid simulations of the Aurora D8 aircraft concept. Validated the new Launch Ascent and Vehicle Aerodynamics fluid code with wind tunnel simulations.

Columbia University High-Beta Tokamak, 2013–2016
Egleston Scholarship Intern
Machined and assembled parts of a capacitor bank power supply for a magnetic coil and wrote code to reconstruct the plasma current profile in the High-Beta Tokamak from magnetic sensor data.


S.B. Ballinger, J.L. Terry, S.G. Baek, K. Tang, A. von Stechow, C. Killer, D. Nicolai, G. Satheeswaran, P. Drews, O. Grulke, Fast camera imaging of plasmas in Alcator C-Mod and W7-X, Nuclear Materials and Energy 17 (2018).

J.L. Terry, S. Ballinger, D. Brunner, B. LaBombard, A.E. White, S.J. Zweben. Fast imaging of filaments in the X-point region of Alcator C-Mod, Nuclear Materials and Energy 12 (2017).


MIT fusion collaboration receives renewed funding (MIT News)

Energy Night provides close-up look at MIT’s fusion future (PSFC News)