Nuclear physicist Ivona Vasileska with breakthrough that can make electricity cheaper for whole of Europe


Since she graduated nuclear studies summa cum laude from a Moscow university, young Ivona Vasileska from Struga recently got her Ph.D. title at the University of Ljubljana. This physics aficionado, while conducting her Ph.D. research, made a discovery that could help bring closer the date of the ignition of the big magnetic fusion reactor ITER in France, which would provide the whole of Europe with cheaper electricity.

There are only a handful of scientists throughout the world that are researching this area. This is why I want to be a part of them and with my research to make a contribution to humanity, says Ivona, who in her interview for Meta.mk also talks about the reactions of the Commission’s members during the presentation of herr thesis, about her work and her future plans.


Recently you got your Ph.D. title from the University of Ljubljana. What was the subject of your Ph.D. thesis? What was your research about?

Vasilevska: My Ph.D. thesis was titled “Modelling of diverter target plate heat fluxes during intense plasma transients in tokamaks.” With this research, I have found a method that will control the fluxes with the assistance of boundary conditions and this, in turn, will save the diverter ,as a key part of the fusion reactor or the tokamak. The boundary conditions were determined through the use of kinetic and fluid modeling codes. The application of this method is to protect the diverter from the influence of heat fluxes in order to prevent its destruction.

The building of the magnetic fusion reactor ITER in France | Фото: iter.org, October 2021

Where can your breakthrough be used?

Vasileska: The fusion reactor will be used for electricity production. When ITER becomes operational (the biggest fusion reactor that is being built in France), Europe would have the cheapest electric energy. The goal is to replace the existing nuclear power plants with fusion reactors.

How did the professors in the Commission react?  

Ivona Vasileska while defending her PhD thesis at the University in Ljubljana | Personal archives

Vasileska: The Commission consisted of five professors, one of them was my mentor, who is from Slovenia, a co-mentor who is part of ITER’s organization in France, two professors also from the University in Ljubljana and one outside member who was part of the Institute of plasma physics in Prague, Czech Republic. The professors reacted positively because the research I conducted is was very complex. The plasma is an ionized gas and represents  the fourth state of matter. My main task was to join two different methods in one place (kinetic and fluid) in order to research plasma’s heat fluxes. This method was first tested on the smaller JET tokamak which is located in England, in order to test this method later on ITER. Normally, with time this method will be upgraded, so that by the time ITER starts working, we will have a complete method that will have an effect on any type of plasma. This method will be used on any fusion reactor.

In your postgraduate studies, your focus was on the plasma. Is there anything new concerning the research in the domain of the plasma physics?
Додека бевте на магистерски студии, во фокусот на интерес ви беше плазмата. Има ли нешто ново во истражувањата во делот кој се однесува на плазмената физика? 

Vasileska: During my master’s degree studies in Moscow I was researching a low-temperature plasma that was generated in a lab, and now my work is focusing on high-temperature plasma that is generated in fusion reactors. In a way, what I was researching in Russia, provided me with the foundation and knowledge to start with researching this type of plasma, because without the knowledge of the low-temperature plasma, one cannot research the high-temperature plasma. As a result, my Ph.D. studies complemented what I was working on in Moscow.

Ivona Vasileska before the presentation of her PhD thesis at the University in Ljubljana | Personal archives

What are your plans for the future?

Vasileska: My plan for the future is to remain in this area of research, because it is a latest installment in the area of physics and there is a lot to be researched. At the moment I’m negotiating to continue my post-doctorate, which would strengthen the method of my research. At the University of Ljubljana, the last student who had obtained a PhD in this area of nuclear physics, did so 7 years ago and very small number of scientists have conducted research in this area. This is why I want to be a part of them and to contribute to humanity with my research.

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