In Memoriam

Professor Emeritus Akira Hirose

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Dr. Akira Hirose. Akira obtained his Bachelor of Science and his Master of Science at Yokohama National University, and his Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Tennessee. Akira was a Research Scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory Oak Ridge, TN, USA.

In 1971, Dr. Hirose joined the Plasma Physics Laboratory at the University of Saskatchewan as a research scientist. In 1977, he became a faculty member in the Physics and Engineering Physics department and in 1979 was made full professor. Akira became the director of the Plasma Physics Laboratory in 1994, when Dr. Harvey Skarsgard retired. Akira became a Professor Emeritus in 2015.

Akira was the Department Head from 1998-2001 and was a Canadian Research Chair (tier 1) since 2001. He was a prolific researcher, publishing 15 books/chapters and over 330 refereed journal articles, including papers in the prestigious Physics Review Letters (PRL). He also served as an Associate editor of Physical Review Letters.

Dr. Hirose supervised over 30 MSc and PhD students and many Post-Doctoral Fellows and Research Associates/Assistants. Akira made pioneering theoretical and experimental contributions to the basic understanding of waves and instabilities in plasmas and their effects on diffusion, confinement and heating of plasmas. Akira was responsible for building the first Canadian tokamak STOR-1M in the early 1980s and soon its successor STOR-M. STOR-M is the only active tokamak in Canada today. In early 1990, research on a compact torus injector was initiated to develop a unique fueling technology to meet the needs of future large tokamak fusion reactors. In early 2000, his lab expanded its research to include plasma based material syntheses. Though STOR-M is small, its contribution to the fusion energy research has been remarkable and has drawn attention from the fusion research community. The IAEA joint experiments, with participation from many countries, were conducted on STOR-M in August 2015. The Saskatchewan tokamaks were used to demonstrate alternating current operation of a tokamak for the first time in early 1980s, an operation mode later tested on many tokamaks world-wide, including the then largest Joint European Tokamak, expanding from 20 kA to 1 MA, and on the HT-7 superconducting tokamak, from a few AC cycles to hundreds of cycles.

Akira received many prestigious fellowships and awards during his distinguished career:

  • American Physical Society Outstanding Referee Award (2009).
  • Elected as a member of C-16 Committee (Plasma Physics), UNESCO International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) (2009-2012). 
  • Canada Research Chair renewed for the second term (2008-2015).
  • Saskatchewan Centennial Medal (February 2006).
  • Nominated for APS DPP J. C. Maxwell Prize.
  • Elected Member of the European Academy of Science (2002) and Fellow (2003).
  • Appointed Canada Research Chair in Plasma Science (2001).
  • Elected a Fellow of Academy of Science, Royal Society of Canada (2000). 
  • 1998 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society (NPSS) Plasma Science and Applications Award 
    • Citation: for outstanding contributions to theoretical/experimental work on basic and fusion related plasma science including studies on waves, turbulent heating, quasi-steady state operation and anomalous transport in tokamaks.
  • Distinguished Researcher, 1996, invitation from Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Technology for research collaboration and special lectures on nuclear fusion.
  • Distinguished Researchers Award, 1995 (Fall Convocation, University of Saskatchewan).
  • Distinguished Foreign Scientist, 1995, Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute.
  • Earned Doctor of Science, University of Saskatchewan (October 1994)
    • Citation For pioneering contributions to the understanding of linear waves, instabilities, and turbulent heating in plasmas and confinement studies in tokamaks.
  • Merit Award from the Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society, IEEE (1993).
    • Citation: "For pioneering contributions to the understanding of linear waves, instabilities, and turbulent heating in plasmas and confinement studies in tokamaks".
  • Fellow, IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) (1986).
  • Fellow, American Physical Society (1981).
  • Senior Member, IEEE (Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers) (August 1982 to December 1985).
  • Research Fellow (Japan Society for Promotion of Sciences, Ministry of Education, Japan), April to July 1984.
  • Fulbright Scholarship (USA) (1967).

Lifetime achievements by Prof Hirose were honoured in several special sessions at the Canadian Association of Physicists Congress, Edmonton, 2015. Akira's achievements and contributions to Plasma Physics will be forever remembered by his many students and colleagues.


From the Department Head

I am here with great sadness in my heart to pay academic tribute to Dr. Akira Hirose, emeritus professor of Physics & Engineering Physics.

Although this is an academic tribute my first thoughts are sympathies for Dr. Hirose's family here with us today: his wife Kimiko, son Tad, daughter Kyoko, and his grandchildren.  Akira's colleagues and friends are also in my thoughts today. 

Dr. Hirose completed his BSc and MSc at Yokohama National University, and his PhD at University of Tennessee followed by a research scientist position at Oakridge National lab.  He joined the University of Saskatchewan Physics Department in 1971 as research scientist, faculty in 1977, full professor in 1979, and led the Plasma Physics Laboratory since 1994.  He served as Department Head of Physics & Engineering Physics from 1998-2001 and held a Canada Research Chair from 2001 until his retirement in 2015. 

Dr. Hirose made pioneering theoretical and experimental contributions to the basic understanding of waves and instabilities in plasmas (ionized gases) and their effects on diffusion and heating of plasmas.   Dr. Hirose was responsible for building the first Canadian tokamak:  a magnetic plasma containment device for developing energy from controlled fusion. The STOR-1M tokamak, and its successor STOR-M, continues to be the only active tokamak in Canada.  These tokamaks were used to demonstrate alternating current operation of a tokamak for the first time, an operation mode later adopted by the Joint European tokamak.  Dr. Hirose has also carried out groundbreaking work with STOR-M on the development of compact torus injection fueling technology to meet the needs of future large tokamak reactors. 

Akira's research accomplishments are incredible in their scope and impact: over 330 publications, including books, and book chapters. His accomplishments were recognized with numerous national and international honours including: Fellow of the Academy of Science of the Royal Society of Canada; Fellow of European Academy of Science; Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE); Fellow of the American Physical Society; IEEE (the I triple E) Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society Merit Award and Plasma Science and Applications Award; Saskatchewan Centennial Medal; University of Saskatchewan Distinguished Researcher Award and earned D.Sc.  His award citations state, "For pioneering contributions to the understanding of linear waves, instabilities, and turbulent heating in plasmas and confinement studies in tokamaks"; and, for outstanding contributions to theoretical/experimental work on basic and fusion related plasma science including studies on waves, turbulent heating, quasi-steady state operation and anomalous transport in tokamaks. 

Dr. Hirose was also a distinguished teacher, a legendary instructor of an advanced EM theory graduate course which students described as a profound experience.  I personally learned much from reading the questions that Dr. Hirose developed, and gained a deep appreciation for the elegant approximations he suggested to students.  Dr. Hirose supervised more than 30 MSc/PhD theses and supervised many postdoctoral fellows and research associates, helping ensure continued progress in science and engineering for the benefit of humanity. 

As a department head, Dr. Hirose was an effective, compelling and compassionate leader.  He provided a role model that helped me develop as an academic leader, and I gained a profound appreciation for Dr. Hirose's ability to enact change like the waves on the shore: gently, slowly, tirelessly, and irresistibly. 

Dr. Hirose brought research honour and prestige to the University of Saskatchewan through his talent, tireless work ethic, and dedication. He also gave dedicated service to the University through teaching and administrative roles.  There is nothing more that the University of Saskatchewan could have asked from Dr. Hirose: may he rest in peace.

Dr. Tom Steele
Professor and Head
Department of Physics and Engineering Physics

20 December 2017

From Students and Colleagues

During the days when Akira was in hospital and after Akira's passing, messages poured in from Akira's former students, PDFs and research associates, as well as his collaborators and colleagues from many countries around the world. Your best-wish messages were conveyed to Akira on a daily basis and certainly brought him comfort based on his subtle responses that people around him detected. Your messages certainly brought comfort and strength to Akira's family and members in the Plasma Physics Laboratory during the difficult times of tremendous loss.  We compiled some condolence messages below. 

May Akira rest in peace!

Dr. Liyan Zhang,
Former Ph.D. Student
Cogent Communications, USA

c/o Prof. Chijin Xiao

Dear Mrs. Hirose and the Physics Faculty,

We are shocked and saddened to learn that Prof. Akira Hirose has left us suddenly and peacefully, please accept our deepest condolences to the Hirose family from myself, Liyan Zhang, his Ph.D. student, and my family at Washington DC USA. It is also a great loss to the Physics Department of the University.

I came to University of Saskatchewan in 1990 to study under Professor Hirose, and completed my program and earned my Ph.D. in 1994. Upon my arrival at the University, I was impressed by Prof. Hirose's broad and deep knowledge in Plasma Physics, as well as his consistent hard working style. I have enjoyed the courses that he taught, and was often impressed by the calculations that he made many years ago, on subjects that he was teaching at my time, nice, beautiful handwritten formula deductions that, of course, are all correct when I tried to repeat. He was certainly gifted in science and technology by universal standards across cultural and national boundaries. His career achievement was reflected by his elections as Fellow of APS, Fellow IEEE and Fellow RSC. I have a lot respect to Prof. Hirose and in fact, had been in contact with him all the time.

At the time of my graduation, with Prof. Hirose's strong recommendation, I have successfully found a NSERC Post-Doc position with a company in Ottawa, Canada, where I had worked on plasma technology for about 4 years. In early 1998, I was fortunate in having found a Post-Doc/consultant position with the Bell Laboratories of Lucent Technologies at New Jersey, USA, to have officially switched to the field of fiber optic communications. However, I only remained in Pos-Doc/consultant position for 4 months and was immediately promoted to the full regular position Member of Technical Staff (MTS) with the Bell Labs/Lucent. Since then, I have been practicing in the communication and internet field for about 20 years. Currently I am working as Director of Optical Network Technology with Cogent Communications, a world top 3 Internet Service Provider (ISP) that carries 1/5 of global internet traffic. I am enjoying my work and proud of my achievement so far, which I would attribute a large part to Prof. Hirose's training. As I mentioned before, I had been in touch with Prof. Hirose all the time as I moved around in industry, and his technical expertise and hard-working style had been my role model.

Although Prof. Hirose left us, the legacy he created, and his spirit, will remain. Together with his family, those who benefited from his guidance and mentorship will remember him forever!

May Prof. Hirose rest in peace!

Yours truly,


Liyan Zhang, Ph.D.
Wife: Mei Chen
Son: Zhiwei Zhang
Daughter: Jennifer Zhang

Dr. Brian Gregory
Professor Emeritus,  INRS, Quebec 

The great distance and short delay prevents me from attending Akira's memorial service.  None the less, thank you for contacting me and please express my sincere condolences to Kimiko.

Yours sincerely, 

Brian Gregory

Dr. Allan Offenberger                          
Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta

I was so sorry to learn of Akira's death yesterday. Please pass on my condolences to colleagues in Physics/Engineering Physics and especially to members of your plasma physics group.

I think of the two scientists who accomplished so much at the University of Saskatchewan - Harvey Skarsgard followed by Akira Hirose - and lament their passing from Canada's active scientific scene. Both provided able leadership to a highly successful program in plasma and fusion energy science that your institution can be proud of.

Personally, I had many occasions to interact with Akira in our professional lives and always valued our discussions. He was an outstanding scientist and an admirable gentleman. He is genuinely missed.

Please extend my regards to Akira's family.

Dr. Promod Kumar Sharma
Institute for Plasma Research, Baht, India 

It is a great loss to the plasma physics fraternity and would create a big void in the Fusion Community. He was a great visionary and his contribution to the plasma physics community was immense.

I still remember my meeting with him when I last visited your lab in 2016. He had bubbling ideas and I could see glow in his eyes when we were discussing on proposal on spherical tokamaks and basic plasma experimental physics. I hope his ideas are taken forward by the Plasma Physics Division of UoS.

Professor Hossam Gaber                                             
University of Ontario Institute of Technology

We are very sorry to hear the loss of Prof. Hirose, our condolences and hope his family will pass this hard time.

His legacy in the plasma and fusion research field will make us always remember him and his scholarly

Dr. Weixing Ding                                              
University of California, Los Angeles 

I am so deeply saddened to hear that Akira passed away. He is my first advisor who led me to tokamak research.  We have a long time friendship even though, we only spent 9 months together.

His kindness and sharpness impressed me a lot.    I have lost two respected advisors this year. It is hard for me to accept the fact. 

Please bring my condolences to his family.  May God embrace them in comfort during such difficult time. 

May his soul rest in peace.  I will miss him forever

Carl Dunlea                              
UofS Ph.D. student  

It's very sad news - we all hoped he would make a recovery.

Liu Yelu                                               
China, former M.Sc. Student 

I am very sorry to hear this information. I am sending a donation to the Department of Physics and Engineering Physics in memory of Prof. Akira.

Prof. Robert Fedosejevs
University of Alberta 

The Canadian plasma community has lost one of its great leaders over the past several decades.  Both his innovation and leadership with the Tokamak research program in the University of Saskatchewan were major factors in maintaining Canada's status as a significant player in magnetic fusion energy research internationally.  He will be sorely missed, both on a personal and scientific level, by all his colleagues across Canada

Prof. Jan Stockel                                             
Institute of Plasma Physics, Prague, Czeck Republic

I am very sorry to hear this bad message. I had known Akira since beginning of 90th as a driving person of STORM tokamak. Big loss for your staff. Please convey my condolence to family, if possible.

Dr. Roger Raman                                             
University of Washington, Former PDF 

This is very sad news. 

It is good that Akira was with his family during this very difficult time. 

Hope Akira's immediate family members will find the needed strength to overcome this very difficult time that words cannot describe. 

Hope all of you at the department are coping well.

Dr. James F. Basinger                          
University of Saskatchewan, Former AVP-Research

It is indeed tremendously sad news.  Akira was a remarkable scientist, and a remarkable human being.  He will be greatly missed.

Yue Ding                                              
Ontario, Canada, Former M.Sc. Student 

With my greatest sadness, I am so sad to hear that!Yelu and I were planning to visit him in December. But I guess it is too late!

List of people who sent messages while Akira was in hospital and after Akira passed away

  • Dr.TomohikoAsaiNihon University, Japan, Former RA
  • Mr. JosephAdegunUniversity of Saskatchewan, Canada, Former M.Sc. student
  • Dr. Blair BromleyCanadian Nuclear Laboratories, Chalk River, Canada
  • Prof. Claude BoucherINRS, QC, Canada
  • Prof. DebjyotiBasuSikkim Manipal University,India, Former PDF
  • Prof. JamesF.BasingerUniversity of Saskatchewan (former AVP-research)
  • Dr.WeifengChenCanadian Light Source, Canada, Former Ph.D. student
  • Prof. Ajay DalaiUniversity of Saskatchewan, Former RA
  • Mr. CarlDunleaUniversity of Saskatchewan, Ph.D. student
  • Dr.WeixingDingUniversity of California, Los Angeles, USA, Former PDF
  • Ms. Yue DingOntario, Canada, Former M.Sc. student
  • Prof. RobertFedosejevsUniversity of Alberta, Canada, Colleague
  • Dr.Brian GregoryINRS, Quebec, Canada, Colleague
  • Prof. Hossam GaberUniversity of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada, Colleague
  • Mr.YeluLiuChina, former M.S. Student
  • Dr.YuanshiLiSaskatoon, Canada, Former RA
  • Dr.DazhiLiuSaskatoon,Former Ph.D. student and PDF
  • Prof. Don McEwenUniversity of Saskatchewan, Colleague
  • Mr. Kenneth MarkBritish Columbia Institute of Technology, Canada,
  • Prof. OsamuMitaraiProfessor Emeritus of Tokai University, Japan, Collaborator
  • Mr. Jason MaleySaskStructural Science Centre, Former student
  • Dr. AllanOffenbergerProfessor Emeritus, University of Alberta, Colleague
  • Dr. TakumiOnchiKyushu University, Japan, Former RA
  • Prof. Ishihara OsamuChubu University, Japan, Collaborator
  • Mr. Michael PattersonUniversity of Saskatchewan, M.Sc. Student
  • Prof. Horst PacherINRS, Canada, Colleague
  • Dr. Roger RamanUniversity of Washington, USA, Former PDF
  • Dr. John RootUniversity of Saskatchewan
  • Dr.RamaswamiSammynaikenUniversity of Saskatchewan, Collaborator
  • Dr. Pramod Kumar SharmaInstitute of Plasma Research, India
  • Dr. JanStockelIPP,CzeckRepublic
  • Dr.AndranikSarkissianPlasmioniqueInc, Former Ph.D. student
  • Prof. Ying YTsuiUniversity of Alberta, ,Collaborator
  • Prof. Jan WeilandSweden, Collaborator
  • Dr. Sean WolfePlasmioniqueInc., Canada, Dormer Ph.D. student
  • Prof. Qiaoqin YangUniversity of Saskatchewan, Former RA, Collaborator
  • Dr.LiyanZhangCogent Communications, USA,Former Ph.D. Student
  • Dr. Wei ZhangPublic HealthEngland, UK,Former Ph.D. Student

Memorial Events

  • Tribute in Akira Hirose's memory at the University Council meeting on Dec.21,2017
  • Mermorial Service been hold in Hirrcrest Memorial on February 10th, 2018, at 1:00PM