Behind the Fusion Scene: Mario Oliver

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In a nutshell: 
Mario Oliver’s academic and professional journey in nuclear engineering spans several countries and prestigious institutions. He earned his BA in Industrial Engineering from Malaga University (UMA) and pursued three MSc: in Industrial Engineering at the Technical University of Madrid (UPM), Nuclear Engineering at the National Institute for Nuclear Science and Technology (INSTN) in France, and Astrophysics at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB). His career has included significant positions at CERN and IDOM, where he developed expertise in fusion reactor technologies and qualification of fusion components. In 2023, Mario moved from Barcelona to the UK to join Kyoto Fusioneering (KF), bringing a wealth of experience from living and working in five different countries to his current role as a Fusion Engineer. 

From an early age, my passion for learning was nurtured by my parents through educational gifts—books on dinosaurs, minerals, and astronomy—that fuelled my curiosity, treasures I have kept for my children. This innate curiosity developed into a lifelong pursuit of knowledge, guiding my academic and career choices. My journey into nuclear science began during my bachelor’s studies under the guidance of Professor Jose Muñoz, who demystified complex nuclear phenomena and introduced me to the world of nuclear reactors and energy extraction. This sparked an interest in fusion and nuclear physics, compelling me to pursue an internship at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) and a master’s degree in nuclear engineering.  

To further expand my understanding of the Universe and complement my engineering skills, I also pursued additional studies in cosmology and astrophysics. These studies were driven by my intrinsic fascination with the outer wilds and provided me with a broader perspective on energy and matter, fundamental concepts in fusion technology. 

Following my time at IDOM post-COVID, the fusion startup scene captivated me, where I not only encountered diverse approaches to fusion but also met the person who would become the mother of my daughter. This personal milestone coincided with significant professional growth, highlighting a period of profound development in both my personal and career trajectories. With a background in both nuclear engineering and physics, I was drawn to fusion engineering—an area that perfectly matched my aspiration to tackle new challenges and address unresolved problems. I am always eager to learn more and push boundaries. 

At Kyoto Fusioneering, I found an environment that not only promises professional growth but also aligns with my commitment to continuous learning. The company’s human-centric approach, highlighted through detailed employee profiles and the significance of their seven credos, resonated with me. Moreover, Kyoto Fusioneering’s commitment to safety and its ethos of collective success provided the ideal setting for me to thrive. The Japanese origin and global presence of the company further enhanced the appeal, offering a broad platform for engagement and innovation. I am particularly proud to recommend our flagship paper, “Kyoto Fusioneering’s Mission to Accelerate Fusion Energy,” which embodies our collective commitment to advancing this critical field. The business case of Kyoto Fusioneering is particularly clever. 

One of the most captivating projects I am involved in is on IFMIF-DONES. What makes it particularly compelling is its proximity to my hometown in Malaga, which naturally instils an emotional attachment to its success. The scientific significance of IFMIF-DONES is paramount for the development of fusion technology and the advancement of scientific knowledge in the region. In managing this collaboration, I am committed to ensuring that both parties benefit significantly from the enhanced fusion material testing capabilities we are developing together. This key aspect was discussed in our previous blog post, “The Necessity of Fusion Materials Testing: The Role of Irradiation Facilities.”  

Additionally, I am involved in projects for UKAEA (United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority), particularly focusing on STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production). My vision, along with Kyoto Fusioneering’s, is highly aligned with STEP’s strategy, which is “outcome led, research informed.” I am currently engaged on a project that spans manufacturing and materials, tasked with optimizing design processes to ensure feasibility, manufacturability, and inspectability. This role not only challenges me but also complements my professional profile by requiring me to connect various dots and act as a generalist. 

Apart from my direct project involvement, I am also engaged in various internal research projects at Kyoto Fusioneering. These projects enable me to contribute to our broader research goals, further deepening my expertise and helping to advance our collective understanding of fusion technology. 

The excitement within the fusion industry is palpable. Working on these initiatives brings me joy and professional fulfilment. They provide vast opportunities for learning and personal development, which I find incredibly rewarding. I am grateful to the Kyoto Fusioneering management team for entrusting me with pivotal missions. Their confidence in me is not taken for granted, and I am committed to not letting them down. As the fusion sector gains momentum, it is crucial that we keep delivering results, step by step.  

What is Kyoto Fusioneering doing to commercialise fusion and what is your role in the company in shaping that goal? 
At Kyoto Fusioneering, our commercialisation strategy centres on developing technologies and materials crucial for future fusion power plants, as opposed to introducing new reactors. In my role, I focus on quickly understanding emerging challenges and communicating solutions effectively to clients and stakeholders. I am dedicated to simplifying complex problems to facilitate experimentation and research, operating under the belief that “things are difficult until they become trivial.” My aim is to make the complexities of fusion technology more accessible, empowering not only myself but also enabling all my work colleagues to adeptly manage these challenges. This effort supports a culture of knowledge management and strives for simplicity in scientific communication, which are essential for driving the company’s growth. I hope to contribute as a problem solver and, occasionally, as a mentor, helping to equip my work colleagues to become competent problem solvers.  

How is the experience at Kyoto Fusioneering helping you grow in skills and opportunities?  
My time at Kyoto Fusioneering has been transformative, significantly enhancing my skills and broadening my professional opportunities. It has sharpened my ability to contribute effectively to the scientific community and has been crucial in developing my leadership qualities, particularly in the areas of knowledge management and scientific innovation. I emphasize clarity and efficiency in our work, adhering to the belief that complexity does not always equate to quality. 

Engaging with diverse stakeholders at Kyoto Fusioneering has also honed my interpersonal skills and built trust, affirming my role as a dependable team member who consistently meets and exceeds expectations, contributing meaningfully to our collective goals. 

I envision a future where fusion energy not only powers our world but also propels humanity into new realms beyond Earth. This transformative energy source has the potential to revolutionize energy systems and extend into fields like medicine and space exploration, simplifying market accessibility and enabling the development of new materials for extraplanetary endeavours. 

At Kyoto Fusioneering, I am committed to cultivating an environment that fosters growth and cooperation. My goal is to propel the company forward by embracing challenges and turning them into opportunities for advancement. I aim to earn trust and demonstrate my usefulness within the organisation, always prepared to take on higher responsibilities to maximise my contributions as needed. My aspiration is to ensure that my efforts are impactful and that they help pave the way for future generations. 

As we stand on the brink of new scientific breakthroughs, my focus remains on pushing the boundaries of what is possible, ensuring that Kyoto Fusioneering stays at the forefront of the fusion industry.  

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