The Condensed Matter Theory group enjoys a great diversity of research programs that span forefront areas of hard/soft condensed matter physics as well as emerging areas at the intersection of physics and other disciplines. The group hosts several postdocs and visiting scientists and benefits from access to several on-campus state-of-the-art computational facilities. Highlights of current research activities of selected group members include:
Professor Arun Bansil’s is the director of the Advanced Scientific Computation Center and of the ELMO Laboratory for science teaching. His research focuses on questions concerning the electronic structure and spectroscopy of high-temperature superconductors and other novel materials, including nano-particle systems. His group is developing and implementing theoretical methodologies for carrying out first-principles calculations of spectral intensities relevant for angle-resolved photoemission, resonant inelastic x-ray scattering, scanning tunneling microscopy, positron-annihilation angular correlation, and other highly resolved spectroscopies, including effects of strong electron correlations. These investigations are aimed at elucidating the nature of electronic states at and near the Fermi energy, the mechanism of superconductivity in high temperature superconductors, and a variety of other interesting questions, and involve extensive collaborations inside and outside the US.
Professor Karma’s research interest lies in theoretical understanding of the emergence of nonequilibrium patterns in nonlinear systems with applications to diverse problems in materials science and biology that are both of fundamental and practical relevance. This research makes extensive uses of mathematical models and computational approaches rooted in nonequilibrium statistical physics and nonlinear dynamics. In the materials arena, a main focus in his group has been the application of the phase-field method to microstructural evolution and crack propagation. The power of this method rests on the spatiotemporal coarse-graining of atomistic details that renders continuum scale simulations of interface dynamics feasible. Much of the excitement in this line research has been generated by recent successes to combine atomistic and phase-field methods to make materials specific predictions on experimentally relevant length and time scales, which is becoming increasingly feasible due to the rapid advances in computer power.
Professor Jeff Sokoloff’s research focuses on elucidating complex atomic-scale mechanisms of wearless friction between solid surfaces using a variety of analytical and computational methods. Topics under current investigation include studies of a proposed mechanism for the reduction of friction by a lubricant, understanding why thin films are able to slide under the exceedingly weak inertial forces exerted on the films during quartz crystal oscillations in microbalance experiments designed for studying friction, and the fundamental study of lubrication mechanism due to polymer brush coatings.
Analysis of neural circuits in the cerebral cortex is the primary research focus of Prof. Armen Stepanyants’ group. This group is utilizing computational and theoretical methods of statistical physics in the attempt to uncover the basic principles governing the circuit organization and function. To date, many fundamental questions about the brain remain unanswered: How do neurons find appropriate synaptic targets in the course of development and form functional circuits? How do these circuits change during learning and memory formation? What is the connectivity diagram of the brain? Due to the unparalleled complexity of the brain, answering these questions requires new theories and computational methods and will undoubtedly lead to new discoveries.
Professor Alex Vespignani is working in the area of discrete stochastic epidemic computational modeling and more about his research can be found on the Network Science page.
Professor Laszlo Barabasi studies and models complex networks for a wide variety of systems using mathematical methods derived from statistical physics. More about his work can be found on the Network Science page.
The Condensed Matter Theory group includes Professors Arun Bansil, Albert-László Barabási, Adrian Feiguin, Jorge José (Emeritus), Alain Karma, Jeffrey Sokoloff, Armen Stepanyants, Alessandro Vespignani, Paul Whitford, Alan Widom, and Fa-Yueh, Wu (Emeritus).