Nigel D Goldenfeld

Professor

Contact

Nigel D Goldenfeld

Primary Research Area

  • Condensed Matter Physics
3113 Engineering Sciences Building

Biography

Nigel Goldenfeld holds a Center for Advanced Study Professorship and a Swanlund Endowed Chair at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with appointments in the Department of Physics and the Institute for Genomic Biology. He is a member of the Condensed Matter Theory group in the Department of Physics, and leads the Biocomplexity Theme at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. He directs the NASA Astrobiology Institute for Universal Biology, at UIUC. Nigel received his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 1982, and for the years 1982-1985 was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Theoretical Physics, University of California at Santa Barbara.

Since 1985 he has been on the faculty at the University of Illinois, with sabbatical positions at Stanford University and the University of Cambridge. Nigel's research explores how patterns evolve in time; examples include the growth of snowflakes, the microstructures of materials, the flow of fluids, the dynamics of geological formations, and even the spatial structure of ecosystems. Nigel's interests in emergent and collective phenomena extend from condensed matter physics, where he has contributed to the modern understanding of high temperature superconductors, to biology, where his current work focuses on evolution and microbial ecology.

Strongly committed to teaching, Nigel is well-known in the physics community for authoring one of the standard graduate textbooks in statistical mechanics, and is widely regarded as one of the most popular graduate-level lecturers in the Department of Physics. In 1996, Nigel took an entrepreneurial leave-of-absence to found NumeriX, the award-winning company that specializes in high-performance software for the derivatives marketplace. Amongst his awards, Nigel has been an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow, a University Scholar of the University of Illinois, a recipient of the Xerox Award for Research, and a recipient of the A. Nordsieck Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching. He is a member of the Editorial Boards of The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, the International Journal of Theoretical and Applied Finance and Communications in Applied Mathematics and Computational Science. Nigel is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Honors

  • University Scholar (1994-1997)
  • Nordsieck Award for Excellence in Teaching (May 2002)
  • Elected Fellow, Institute of Physics (May 2011)
  • Elected Member, National Academy of Sciences (May 2010)
  • Elected Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (May 2010)
  • Swanlund Endowed Professor, UIUC. Aug 2008 - present
  • Fellow of the American Physical Society (1995)
  • Sloan Foundation Fellowship (1987-1991)
  • Junior Xerox Award for Faculty Research (1991)
  • Beckman Fellow, Center for Advanced Study-University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Fall, 1988)

Semesters Ranked Excellent Teacher by Students

SemesterCourseOutstanding
Spring 2017PHYS 563
Spring 2015PHYS 504
Spring 2012PHYS 563
Spring 2011PHYS 504
Fall 2010PHYS 569
Spring 2010PHYS 563
Fall 2009PHYS 569
Spring 2009PHYS 504
Spring 2008PHYS 563
Fall 2007PHYS 569
Spring 2007PHYS 504
Fall 2006PHYS 569
Spring 2006PHYS 569
Fall 2005PHYS 563
Spring 2005PHYS 504
Spring 2004PHYS 498
Fall 2002PHYS 462
Spring 2001PHYS 498
Fall 2000PHYS 462
Spring 2000PHYS 464

Selected Articles in Journals

Related news

  • In the Media

Lose the jargon. Be willing to give away your best ideas. Quality is everything.

These are tips from a trio of physicists on writing a great article for Reviews of Modern Physics—the world-renowned journal of topical reviews that turns 90 in July. At a celebration for RMP at the APS March Meeting in Boston, the researchers offered advice to future Reviews authors and reminisced about the publication’s influence on their careers.

  • Research
  • Biological Physics

A previously unappreciated interaction in the genome turns out to have possibly been one of the driving forces in the emergence of advanced life, billions of years ago.

This discovery began with a curiosity for retrotransposons, known as “jumping genes,” which are DNA sequences that copy and paste themselves within the genome, multiplying rapidly. Nearly half of the human genome is made up of retrotransposons, but bacteria hardly have them at all.

Nigel Goldenfeld, Swanlund Endowed Chair of Physics and leader of the Biocomplexity research theme at the IGB, and Thomas Kuhlman, a former physics professor at Illinois who is now at University of California, Riverside, wondered why this is.“We thought a really simple thing to try was to just take one (retrotransposon) out of my genome and put it into the bacteria just to see what would happen,” Kuhlman said. “And it turned out to be really quite interesting.”

  • Research
  • Biological Physics
  • Biophysics

The mechanism of pattern formation in living systems is of paramount interest to bioengineers seeking to develop living tissue in the laboratory. Engineered tissues would have countless potential medical applications, but in order to synthesize living tissues, scientists need to understand the genesis of pattern formation in living systems.

A new study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University has brought science one step closer to a molecular-level understanding of how patterns form in living tissue. The researchers engineered bacteria that, when incubated and grown, exhibited stochastic Turing patterns: a “lawn” of synthesized bacteria in a petri dish fluoresced an irregular pattern of red polka dots on a field of green.

  • In the Media
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Biological Physics

Quanta Magazine recently spoke with Goldenfeld about collective phenomena, expanding the Modern Synthesis model of evolution, and using quantitative and theoretical tools from physics to gain insights into mysteries surrounding early life on Earth and the interactions between cyanobacteria and predatory viruses. A condensed and edited version of that conversation follows.