The SOFE 2019 conference will include an exciting social program, where all conference attendees will be invited to participate. In addition to the opening reception (Sunday evening) and the conference banquet (Wednesday evening), SOFE 2019 attendees are encouraged to join the Women in Engineering luncheon on Monday, and the Young Professionals reception on Tuesday.
For the Women in Engineering luncheon, we have invited Dr. Valeria Riccardo (Head of Engineering, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory) as the speaker. She is the first female Head of Engineering at PPPL and is in fusion field for more than 20 yrs. Question and Answer event with Dr. Riccardo is planned. We will also have a panel discussion to exchange ideas and provoke discussion within the community.
On Monday evening, a public Town Hall meeting was added to enable the technology community to provide input to the APS-DPP Community Planning Process and the Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (FESAC) to develop a 10-year strategic plan for the US fusion program. All are welcome. You need not be registered for the conference to attend. Members from the DPP-CPP Fusion Materials and Technology Program panel will outline their plans for upcoming workshops and discuss the template for advocacy white papers and the submission process. This is your opportunity to become involved in the planning process and give early feedback on the planning activity.
For the Young Professionals reception experienced staff will share their instrumental experiences to inspire and encourage young professionals to continue in fusion engineering and research. Dr. Richard Nygren of Sandia National Labs will present his findings on the changing demographics of personnel in the US fusion program, discuss new opportunities for young people and the importance of mentoring young staff.
A Town Hall meeting on the topic of “Accelerating the Development of Fusion Power” will follow immediately after the Young Professionals reception on Tuesday evening. We are pleased to have Dr. Dale Meade, retired from PPPL, lead the discussion on pathways to a pilot fusion power plant. We hope to foster input from the engineering community to a strategic planning exercise currently underway by APS for the Fusion Energy Science Advisory Committee. Input from and comparison to current plans in Europe, Japan and China are welcome.
The SOFE awards banquet will occur on Wednesday evening. Participants can enjoy dinner with colleagues involved in fusion from around the world. At this event we will thank four retiring Fusion Technology Standing Committee (FTC) members for their years of service, and the FTC chair will welcome four newly elected committee members. Two Fusion Technology awards, those for 2018 and 2019, will be presented to recognize outstanding individual contributions to research and development in the field of Fusion Technology. Finalists in the SOFE2019 student paper competition will also be recognized, and a student award will be presented.
Young Professionals Reception Seminar
Title: "Fusion Technology, Wolves, Wanderings and Thoughts on Your Future"
Speaker: Dr. Richard E. Nygren, Distinguished Member, Technical Staff, Sandia National Laboratories
Abstract: In this talk, Richard describes fusion systems and his thoughts about the attraction and opportunities of working in the multi-disciplinary world-wide network of fusion development. This is an interesting time for fusion with large private venture investments and studies by the National Academies of Science noting the need for much more R&D on fusion nuclear science and technology (FNST). Maybe we are finally nearing the tipping point where such research will ramp up. Richard will present information on the declining US expertise in FNST. Replenishing this resource and reinvigorating FNST is both a challenge and an opportunity.
Women in Engineering luncheon
Title: "Why diversity?"
Speaker: Dr. Valeria Riccardo, Head of Engineering, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Despite the constant stream of TED Talks, books, blog posts, and corporate initiatives, there is surprisingly little consensus about what the latest statistics and trends in diversity in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) mean, or how to address the issues they raise. However, there is consensus that diversity matters: enhancing through innovation and technology will require a far more diverse talent pool in science and engineering fields than the alarmingly resilient one running it today. A more diverse STEM population produces huge benefits to technological innovation at large. For example the National Center for Women & Information Technology survey  reports a 40% increase in the number of U.S. information and technology patents filed by mixed-sex teams compared to all-male teams. This is a simple example, easy to quantify, but diversity is beyond gender: race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.
The lack of diversity is a missed opportunity, with a cost. Although STEM offers well-paid and reasonably resilient careers, these seem to attract self-similar demographics. In the U.S. surveys report that both women and under-represented minorities do not pursue careers in engineering because they are attracted to professions in which they can contribute directly to the welfare of others. Engineering has an image problem to resolve to attract diversity. We find Dilbert funny, but it is time to move on: caricatures and the cubicle culture turn off demographics engineering needs. Engineering is a profoundly creative profession. Creativity is not something that just happens. It is the result of making unexpected connections between things we already know. Creativity depends on our life experiences. Without diversity, the life experiences we bring to an engineering problem are limited. As a consequence, we may not find the best, most elegant engineering solution. In engineering conservatism and creativity are always in tension. Incremental changes from previous designs do not meet much resistance, but the most original and innovative design is subject to thorough scrutiny. Immediately after the most creative moments, engineers always begin looking for flaws. The external image of engineering reflects the introspective side more than the creative side. We need to show off the creative side, as well as abandon the negative stereotypes.
Recruiting a diverse workforce is only the beginning though. First diversity and inclusions are needed to provide a more fertile environment, not to comply with some regulation or target. Inclusion of a diverse workforce does not mean transforming it into the rest of the self-similar workforce. We need to create an environment all are comfortable to bring their ideas forwards and where all listen and respect all contributions. The diverse populations must be supported, while avoiding any tension that may disrupt overall engagement, and cause all (not just the diverse population) feel disconnected from being influential. To do this requires development tools and resources to maximize talent engagement, advancement, workplace performance, and overall satisfaction.
Take-aways: innovation needs diversity; diversity is a lot more than gender.
 C. Ashcraft, A. Breitzman, ‘Who invents IT?’, Women’s Participation in Information, Technology Patenting, 2012 Update
This program is designed to help Students and Young Professionals expand their professional networks while at the conference, gain personalized career insights, and receive guidance from senior professionals in Fusion Engineering.
Attendees can sign up to be either a mentor or mentee for the conference. Mentor Matches will be paired by technical interests and the matches will be communicated to attendees by IEEE staff before the conference start.
Mentors and mentees will then be encouraged to connect, i.e. by email or call, prior to the conference, in order to establish plans to meet-up and connect at SOFE 2019 . Meet-up plans are up to the pairs' discretion.
For a glimpse into the last SOFE conference click this SOFE 2017 link.