Derek Schaeffer

Dr. Schaeffer is an associate research scholar in the Department of Astrophysical Sciences of Princeton University and a long-term visitor in the Theory Department of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. He received his Ph.D. in 2014 from the University of California, Los Angeles, working on laboratory experiments of magnetized collisionless shocks.

His research interests continue to focus on experiments and numerical simulations of high-Mach-number, laser-driven plasma interactions relevant to space and astrophysical systems. These include magnetized collisionless shocks, such as the Earth's bow shock or the shocks generated by supernovae, in which supersonic directed flows are converted to thermal motion on scales much smaller than the collisional mean free path. Other examples include fast magnetic reconnection, prevalent in solar flares or the Earth's magnetosphere, in which magnetic energy is converted to kinetic energy. Both processes are also associated with the acceleration of particles to extremely high energies.

Dr. Schaeffer is one of the primary developers of pioneering laboratory experiments that utilize high-energy lasers to generate astrophysically-relevant collisionless shocks. These include the first laboratory demonstrations of low-Mach number, subcritical shocks using the Raptor laser and Large Plasma Device at UCLA, and high-Mach number, supercritical shocks using the Omega laser facility at the University of Rochester. He also conducts experiments on laser-driven magnetic reconnection on both the Omega laser facility and the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

  • "Direct Observations of Particle Dynamics in Magnetized Collisionless Shock Precursors in Laser-Produced Plasmas"
    D.B. Schaeffer, W. Fox et al., PRL 122, 245001 (2019)
  • "Generation and Evolution of High-Mach-Number Laser-Driven Magnetized Collisionless Shocks in the Laboratory"
    D.B. Schaeffer, W. Fox et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 199, 025001 (2017)
  • "Collisionless momentum transfer in space and astrophysical explosions"
    A.S. Bondarenko, D.B. Schaeffer et al., Nat. Phys. 13, 573 (2017)