Washington Taylor

Professor of Physics
Research is centered on basic theoretical questions related to quantum physics and gravity.
(617) 258-0729
Office: 6-317
Affiliated Center(s): MIT Center for Theoretical Physics
Assistant: Scott Morley

Research Interests

Professor Taylor’s primary research interests are centered on basic theoretical questions related to quantum physics and gravity. Some of Taylor’s principal research contributions have been in fundamental aspects of string theory, including the physics of D-branes, string field theory, the matrix model formulation of M-theory, string compactifications, and the geometry and physics of F-theory. Taylor’s work combines mathematical, computational, and physics approaches, and has led to progress on mathematical problems as well as in physics. Taylor’s recent research has focused on exploring the large number of apparent solutions to string theory and connections between these solutions and observable particle physics and cosmology. Taylor has also recently begun to engage in research on mathematical and computational models of ecology and evolution. Here is a more detailed description of Taylor’s current and past research program.

Scaffolding of the Galaxies
Courtesy of MIT | YouTube

Biographical Sketch

Washington Taylor is a Professor of Physics in the MIT Center for Theoretical Physics (CTP). Taylor received his BA in mathematics from Stanford, and his PhD in physics from UC-Berkeley in 1993. He came to MIT as a postdoc in the CTP in 1993. Taylor joined the faculty at Princeton University in 1995, and returned to MIT in 1998, where he became a full professor in 2002. Taylor served as the Director of MIT’s Center for Theoretical Physics from 2016-2018.

Taylor teaches undergraduate and graduate courses ranging from electromagnetism to quantum field theory. With Prof. Robert Jaffe, Taylor developed a new course on the Physics of Energy [8.21]. This course, which has been taught each Fall since 2008, is aimed at MIT undergraduates in any major. The course introduces students to the basic physical principles underlying the energy landscape, as well as applications of these principles to energy sources, uses and conversions. In 2018, Jaffe and Taylor completed a book “The Physics of Energy”, based on material from the course.

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Awards & Honors

  • 2019 // Association of American Publishers PROSE Award for the best textbook in physical sciences and mathematics (shared with Robert Jaffe)
  • 2009 // Buechner Faculty Teaching Prize, MIT
  • 2008 // Class of 1960 Fellow, MIT
  • 2000 // Appointed Class of 1942 Career Development Professor (MIT)
  • 1999 // DOE Outstanding Junior Investigator
  • 1998 // Sloan Research Fellowship

Key Publications

  • Taylor’s publications are mostly available through the online physics archive. More information about Taylor’s research; publications; and material from some presentations can be found here.