Mehran Kardar PhD '83

Francis Friedman Professor of Physics
Interests include non-equilibrium collective behavior, disordered systems, soft matter, fluctuation-induced phenomena, and biophysics.
(617) 253-3259
Office: 6C-315
Lab(s): Kardar Group

Research Interests

  1. Non-equilibrium collective behavior (as in active matter, aggregation and deposition in growth, transport with random inputs and outputs., etc.) is best described starting from phenomenological equations constructed on the basis of symmetries and conservation laws. We have successfully applied this methodology to several problems involving polymers, flux lines, and growing surfaces and bacterial range expansions.
  2. Disordered systems such as spin- and flux-glasses, are characterized by a complex (free) energy landscape and slow dynamics. Using analytical solutions, or clever numerical algorithms, we have found exact results, or bounds, for a number of simple glassy systems motivated by flux lines in superconductors. Even these simple models are of great value, indicating interesting connections to diverse problems in optimization, neural networks, and evolution.
  3. Soft Matter: Polymers, membranes, and gels; anomalous transport and relaxation.
  4. Fluctuation-Induced Phenomena: Casimir forces, electromagnetic fluctuations in and out of equilibrium.
  5. Biologically Physics: Cortical patterns, knots in proteins, immune response.

Biographical Sketch

Professor Kardar is the Francis Friedman Professor in the Physics Department at MIT. He obtained a BA degree from Cambridge University in 1979, and a PhD in Physics (MIT) in 1983. He was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows from 1983 to 1986, before returning to MIT as an Assistant Professor, and was promoted to Full Professor in 1996. He has been a visiting Professor at a number of institutions including Catholic University (Leuven, Belgium), Oxford University, UC Santa Barbara (KITP), UC Berkeley (Miller fellow), and Ecole Normale Superieure (Paris, France).

His expertise is in Statistical Physics, and he has lectured extensively on this topic both at MIT (garnering several MIT teaching awards) and in workshops (including Beg Rohu and Les Houches in France, Newton Institute in Cambridge, Troisieme cycle in Switzerland, and Jyvaskyla in Finland). He is the author of two books on Statistical Physics based on these lectures. In 2018 he was recognized by the John David Jackson award for Excellence in Graduate Physics Education.

His service to the community includes Founding Board membership of the New England Complex Science Institute, Editorial board of Journal of Statistical Physics, and organization of Gordon Conference and KITP workshops. His work has been recognized by a number of awards, such as the Bergmann memorial research award, A. P. Sloan Fellowship, Presidential Young Investigator award, Edgerton award for junior faculty achievements (MIT), and the Guggenheim Fellowship. He is Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences.

Awards & Honors

  • 2020 // Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Award
  • 2020 // Simons Fellow in Mathematics and Theoretical Physics
  • 2019 // Simons-GGI Visiting Scientist for 2019; Galileo-Galilei Institute (Florence, Italy)
  • 2019 // Ellis Island Medal of Honor
  • 2018 // National Academy of Sciences Member
  • 2017 // John David Jackson Excellence in Graduate Physics Education Award
  • 2015 // Mark Kac Memorial Scholar, CNLS, Los Alamos
  • 2014 // KITP Simons Distinguished Visiting Scholar
  • 2013 // International Francqui Professor Chair, Belgium
  • 2009 // Elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 2008 // MIT School of Science Prize in Graduate Teaching
  • 2007 // American Physical Society Fellow (APS) "For pioneering work in a broad range of topics in statistical physics, including the dynamics of growing interfaces, directed polymers in random media, tethered surfaces, stability of charge polymers and, more recently, biophysical systems."
  • 2001 // Miller Visiting Professor at the University of California, Berkeley
  • 2001 // John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship
  • 1992 // MIT School of Science Graduate Teaching Prize
  • 1992 // Buechner Teaching Prize (MIT)
  • 1991 // Edgerton Award for Junior Faculty Achievements (MIT)
  • 1990-92 // MIT Class of 1948 Professor (Career Development Chair)
  • 1990 // MIT Graduate Student Departmental Teaching Award
  • 1989 // Presidential Young Investigator Award
  • 1987 // Sloan Research Fellowship
  • 1983-86 // Harvard Society of Fellows Junior Fellowship

Key Publications

  • “Dynamic scaling of growing interfaces,” M. Kardar, G. Parisi, and Y.-C. Zhang, Phys. Rev. Lett. 56, 889 (1986)

  • “Pressure is not a state function for generic active fluids‎,” A.P. Solon et al, Nature Physics 11, 673 (2015).

  • “Replica Bethe Ansatz studies of two-dimensional interfaces with quenched random impurities,” M. Kardar, Nucl. Phys. B 290, 582 (1987).