Dennis Whyte, professor of nuclear science and engineering and director of the Plasma Science and Fusion Center, has been named the new head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE), effective Sept. 9. He will continue to serve as director of the Plasma Science and Fusion Center.
“Professor Whyte is an inspiring educator and a dedicated, thoughtful leader, and he has a wide base of collaborators both within and beyond the Institute,” Ian A. Waitz, dean of the School of Engineering, wrote in an announcement to the department today. “He is well poised to lead this distinguished department into the future.”
Whyte succeeds Richard Lester, who was named associate provost for international activities at MIT in May. “Richard has been an exceptional leader for the department, leading the effort to define and implement an exciting new vision and strategy,” Waitz wrote.
A leader in the field of fusion research using magnetic confinement of plasmas for energy production, Whyte’s work specializes on the interface between plasma and materials. He has authored more than 300 publications, served as leader of the Boundary-Plasma Interface Topical Group of the U.S. Burning Plasma Organization, and is a fellow of the American Physical Society. He was awarded the U.S. Department of Energy’s Plasma Physics Junior Faculty Award in 2003, and in 2013 he won the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Nuclear Fusion Prize. In 2015 Whyte was an invited speaker at CERAWeek, the world’s largest energy conference and the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Distinguished Lecture.
Whyte is a two-time winner of the Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Distinguished Teaching, and he is heavily involved in student design courses and projects. Recently, he and his students have made significant advances on surface and material measurement techniques of fusion and reactive power plant designs for pilot plants. Whyte received his BEng from the University of Saskatchewan in 1986, and his PhD from the University of Québec INRS in 1993.