Alice Chen

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Irvine, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10211

Approve Date

October 7, 2021

Project Title

Chen, Alice (California, Irvine, U. of) "Cosmologies of Promise: An Ethnography of Fusion Research"

First proposed in the 1920s, controlled nuclear fusion has long been considered the “holy grail” of energy research. However, the necessary heat and pressure conditions for this reaction powering the sun and stars do not exist on earth, and even after almost a century of research, a sustainable fusion reaction has yet to be achieved. Despite decades of failed projects, many physicists, governments, and venture capitalists, in particular, continue to advocate for more research and funding in fusion energy. As fusion physicists and funders may never see a return on their investments, this project seeks to understand how and why scientists, governments, and investors continue to devote time, money, and careers to a promissory project that might not even be realized in their own lifetimes. In doing so, this project seeks to understand how funding and research policies are dependent not only on profit potentials and scientific merit, but are shaped by other social, cultural, and political motivations.