Benjamin Jorns

Associate Professor


3037 François-Xavier Bagnoud Aerospace Building
1320 Beal Avenue Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2140


Dr. Benjamin Jorns is an associate professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan where he co-directs the Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Laboratory.  Founded in 1992, this lab is one of the largest and oldest in the country dedicated to in-space propulsion research.  Dr. Jorns received his B.S. in Physics from Yale (2007) and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Aerospace Engineering from Princeton (2012). Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Michigan (2017), Dr. Jorns was a member of the electric propulsion group at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California from 2012-2016 where his work combined experimental and analytical techniques to investigate propulsion systems for the next generation of NASA robotic missions. Dr. Jorns also held a lecturer appointment in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department at UCLA from 2013-2015. His primary research interests include wear mechanisms and stability in electric propulsion systems, turbulence and nonlinear processes in low temperature plasmas, developing new plasma diagnostics, and investigating breakthrough forms of in-space propulsion.  

Dr. Jorns has made several technical contributions to the fields of low temperature plasmas and in-space propulsion in his career.  He pioneered the use of data-driven methods to develop new models and optimization techniques for electric propulsion systems, and he has combined these methods with experiment and theory to lead to new insights into the stability of Hall thrusters and hollow cathodes. These findings subsequently have been incorporated into on-going research efforts and models at NASA, the Air Force Research Laboratory, and several universities and institutions around the world.   Most recently, Dr. Jorns has been exploring  expanding the capability of envelope of existing thruster technologies as well as next-generation concepts to meet the growing accessibility of power in space. Dr. Jorns has worked closely with both industry and government in the testing and development of electric propulsion systems for in-space applications.  Key partners include the Air Force Research Laboratory, NASA, Department of Energy, SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, L3 Harris, and Aerojet Rocketdyne.  Relatedly, he was recently named co-director (2021)  of the Joint Advanced Propulsion Institute (JANUS), a 5-year strategic technology research institute supported by NASA to investigate testing of high power electric propulsion systems.

Dr. Jorns has published over 150 journal articles and conference proceedings in the field, and he has been recognized six times with the “Best Paper” work in electric propulsion from AIAA.   He is an associate fellow of the AIAA and member of the IEEE, APS, and Electric Rocket Propulsion Society.  He is also the recipient of the AFOSR Young Investigator Program award, the DOE Early Career Award, the AIAA Sperry Award, and seven NASA technical achievement awards.  Dr. Jorns recently was the invited chief guest editor of a special issue on the Physics of Electric Propulsion from the Journal of Applied Physics and is currently an associate editor for the Journal of Electric Propulsion.   He has held several leadership roles for the AIAA’s Electric Propulsion Technical Committee including serving most recently as a Technical Discipline Chair for the AIAA SciTech.  In addition to his technical contributions, Dr. Jorns is engaged in outreach activities intended to raise the profile of his field.  He is the faculty advisor for the University of Michigan’s AIAA student branch, and he oversees an outreach group that builds and presents benchtop experiments related to low temperature plasmas to K-8 students.


  • B.S. Physics, Yale University, 2007
  • M.A. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University, 2009
  • Ph.D. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University, 2012
  • Society Memberships

Research Interests

Electric propulsion systems; high-power Hall thrusters; turbulence and nonlinear process in low temperature plasmas; optically-based plasma diagnostics;  coherent, low-frequency plasma structures; magnetic detachment; micropropulsion; breakthrough forms of space propulsion.

Research areas:

Professional Service

  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Associate Fellow
  • American Physical Society, Member
  • Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Member
  • AIAA Electric Propulsion Technical Committee
  • Member, Best Paper Award Chair (2018), Membership chair (2018-2020),Technical Disci-pline Chair (2022)
  • Electric Propulsion Rocket Society
  • Member, Best Paper Award Chair (2019)
  • Michigan Institute for Plasma and Science Engineering
  • Executive Committee (2017-Present)


  • Department of Energy Early Career Award, 2022-Present
  • Co-director, Joint Advanced Propulsion Institute ($15M 5-year NASA Space Technology Research Institute), 2021
  • AIAA Lawrence Sperry Award, 2021
  • Air Force Office of Scientifc Research Young Investigator Program award, 2018-2022
  • Featured Article, Physics of Plasmas, 2020
  • Best Paper, Electric Propulsion Category, AIAA Joint Propulsion Conference, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022
  • Editor’s Pick, Physics of Plasmas, 2014, 2018
  • NASA Team Achievement Award for 12.5 kW Hall Thruster Development, 2018
  • NASA JPL Voyager Award, 2015
  • NASA Group Achievement Award, 2015
  • NASA JPL Team Award, 2015
  • NASA JPL Discovery Award, 2014
  • NASA JPL Mariner Award, 2013
  • NASA Graduate Student Researchers Project Fellowship, 2011-2012
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 2008-2011
  • Program in Plasma Science and Technology Fellow, Princeton University and Princeton
  • Plasma Physics Lab., 2008-2010
  • Sayre Graduate Award for Academic Excellence, Princeton University, 2008
  • AIAA Orville and Wilbur Wright Graduate Award, 2008
  • Branford Prize for Academic Excellence, Yale University, 2007