THE FUSION ERA – Interview of Jasmine Mund (Intern)

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1.     Introduction

Jasmine graduated in 2021 with an MEng in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Manchester where her dissertation was focused on analysing passive cooling loops using CFD modelling. She is now a mechanical engineer on the nuclear graduates scheme which is a two year programme that facilitates multiple placements at multiple companies within the nuclear industry while also providing training in a range of areas. In August 2022 she joined the UK branch of Kyoto Fusioneering. Besides working at KF she is also currently running a small company called Power on Publishing with some of her fellow nucleargraduates as part of the graduate scheme. They are writing a book that is a guide to the nuclear industry aiming to combat the negative stereotypes of the industry and increase awareness in the younger population. These books will also be donated to local schools and all profits are going to their charity partner Bagbooks who create multi-sensory story books for people with severe learning disabilities.

2.   What drew you to join KF and the world of fusion?

I’ve had an interest in Netzero and the associated technologies since I was a teenager; I remember one of my favourite projects being about the concept of solar powered planes. Nuclear was introduced to me in more detail at university and it was there that I found my desire to join the industry. I have always been someone that enjoys learning and expanding my knowledge, so I knew very early on that I would love to learn more about fusion. This desire increased even further when I saw the incredible advancements being made in the news and decided it was a very exciting time to be working in an industry that could make such an impact on the world. I chose KF specifically because I felt that I shared the visions of the company in terms of the passion to work on technology that will help to solve energy supply challenges and contribute towards a carbon-neutral world. Working in a start-up has given me the opportunity to participate in many higher-level conversations that I most likely would not have been able to take part in a larger organisation; this has been incredibly valuable and a great learning opportunity.

3.  What is KF doing to commercialise fusion and what is your role in the company in supporting that goal?

For commercialisation of fusion to happen within the necessary timeframe regarding the energy crisis, all elements of fusion reactors need to be developed synchronously. While most fusion companies are focused on the significant challenges associated with the actual production of energy, there are also many other key components in a reactor that are highly important. Rather than looking to achieve fusion itself, we are developing other technologies such as gyrotrons and breeder blankets (to name a few) that will be key if the fusion industry is to be commercially viable. I had the chance to take a significant role in writing an

academic paper about the challenges that the fusion industry is facing, how KFis helping to tackle these and where the company fits within the fusion ecosystem; this will be published in the Journal of Fusion Energy in 2023. This was an amazing experience that I am grateful to have been involved in as it allowed me to learn a great deal about the company and the wider industry. Once published, this will give people an overview of our key technologies and how they are being developed with a view to aiding in the road to commercialisation.

4.  How have the experiences you’ve had at KF helped you to grow your skills and open up new opportunities?

I would say that the main skill that I’ve improved during my time at KF is communication both written and verbal. Having a key role in writing papers on a range of topics has allowed me to enhance the clarity of my writing and adapt it to different audiences. KF has also facilitated my attendance at conferences and meetings where I have had the chance to speak to other professionals working in fusion; this has not only expanded my network but also increased my confidence in these situations.

Working in a global company I’ve had the chance to interact with colleagues that work on a completely different continent and learn lots about the difference in cultures. I have been given the opportunity to visit the team in Japan and not only meet people that I have only ever seen on a screen, but also the chance to do some corrosion testing at Kyoto University. I envisage improving not only my interpersonal skills and relationships with other employees as a result, but also my technical knowledge. 

5.  As part of the Nucleargraduates Scheme you are a STEM ambassador and have been involved in discussing gender bias at primary and secondary schools in the UK. How did you bring this awareness and knowledge to the workplace? 

Yes, as part of my graduate scheme I’ve had the opportunity to become a STEM Ambassador and take part in many different activities and workshops. These have covered a range of topics; however, I particularly enjoyed those focused on gender bias in STEM careers. I found that gender bias is far less prevalent at younger ages; this highlighted to me the importance of having these conversations before they develop. As such, I will continue to take part in these activities and encourage more girls to pursue STEM careers long-term. Being a female engineer myself, I have often found myself to be the only woman in a room, which can sometimes make it difficult to make my voice heard. Therefore, it was a welcome surprise when I found a very warm and welcoming environment at KF where I feel that my thoughts and ideas are valued. During my time here, we’ve had some really interesting conversations about gender in the workplace. Opening these topics of dialogue and involving everyone in them is key, so I’ve tried to share my opinions as much as possible. From this, I can see that employee diversity is something KF is committed to as we continue to grow.