Friedrich Wagner, retired Director of IPP, has won a Russian research grant worth about 3,5 million Euros, together with Russian colleagues from St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University and in cooperation with the Ioffe Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. There he will lead the research laboratory of advanced tokamak physics, a collaboration between St. Petersburg Polytechnic University and the Ioffe Institute.

Congratulations, Fritz!
What are your plans at the laboratory?

The laboratory has about 80 members and three experiments, and I will try to fulfil the role of the so-called Leading Scientist for the next two years. That is new territory for me but also for my Russian colleagues. Now, they know themselves, how to do science or how to operate a tokamak. I will contribute as a lecturer and I will bring in my knowledge and experience as well as my network. In the end, the main issue will be the future of this institute and the main Ioffe experiment, the spherical tokamak GLOBUS-M. I hope I can contribute with ideas on the Institute’s future strategy. Maybe the Leading Scientist has some visibility, maybe it might be easier for me as an external partner to open doors.

How did your participation in the competition for this Russian government grant come about?

I have been working with the Ioffe Institute and the Polytechnic University in St. Petersburg for decades. When I joined IPP in 1975, I wanted to measure ion temperatures via charge exchange. At that time the best instruments came from Ioffe Institute, so IPP started a collaboration. Now, last spring, the Russian colleagues approached me with the idea to participate in a grant competition, which aims at bringing foreign scientists to Russian universities. As I am officially retired and available and not yet ready for the role as couch potato, I accepted the offer.

Russia has vast financial resources from oil, gas and coal exports. Should a fraction be spent on research, then it would be a good and appropriate idea to spend some of it on fusion.

What are your personal aims for the next two years?

I will spend four months per year – split into several stays – in St. Petersburg. My most important objective is that the laboratory continues after termination of my engagement. Russia has vast financial resources from oil, gas and coal exports. Should a fraction be spent on research, then it would be a good and appropriate idea to spend some of it on fusion. When I joined fusion, Russian sciences with the three major labs in Kurchatov, Budger, and Ioffe institute had a leading position in fusion research. Russia is part of ITER and needs the necessary scientific basis at home. I hope that I can reach Russian students with seminars and lectures and interest them in a career in high-temperature plasma physics.

What is the situation of young researchers in Russia?

I will learn more as soon as I am there. In the seminars and laboratories I see many „old friends“. Obviously, during the last years, young people did not see much future prospects in going into research. But like elsewhere, Russia seems to recognise the need to engage and support young scientists, and in fusion especially with respect to ITER. It would be a great fulfilment if I could support this process a little.

What are you looking forward to in particular for the next two years?

I am generally looking forward to this new mission and to work with my Russian colleagues. I will also enjoy the cultural life in St. Petersburg – the Eremitage, the Russian Museum, the Mariinksy theater , the many palaces and memorial sites. My wife knows the city well from earlier stays and she will accompany me at times.

Thank you very much, Fritz!
We wish you a successful time in St. Petersburg.