Vijay Balasubramanian
Position: Presidential Professor
Program: Physics
Campus Affiliation: Graduate Center
Degrees/Diplomas: Ph.D. Princeton University
Vijay Balasubramanian, a theoretical physicist and gifted researcher, is Presidential Professor in the Ph.D. Program in Physics. Since his undergraduate days at MIT, Balasubramanian has made significant contributions to a remarkably broad range of theoretical questions, from string theory to neuroscience. In the theory of quantum fields and strings, he was in the first wave of theorists to explore the conjectured connections between gauge theories and gravity in different spatial dimensions, and his most recent work addresses questions about how quantum systems come to thermal equilibrium as well as the relations among effective descriptions on different scales of space and time. In the neural and cognitive sciences, he wrote groundbreaking papers on geometrical and statistical mechanics approaches to learning theory, and went on to engage with detailed neurophysiological data to test the idea that retinal coding of visual signals into spikes is efficient, transmitting the maximum possible information at fixed metabolic cost. His current work touches problems ranging from the neural representation of place to the processing of olfactory signals. Balasubramanian has a remarkable record of patents, lecturing, and grants, and his more than seventy academic papers, on core topics ranging from black holes to string theory, have appeared in top scientific journals. He has been a junior fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows, a fellow-at-large of the Santa Fe Institute, and a 2011 Penn Fellow, and is a recipient of a fellowship from the Fondation Pierre Gilles de Gennes. He earned his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Princeton University and comes to the Graduate Center from the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences, where he has served as Cathy and Marc Lasry Professor of Physics. As passionate about teaching as he is about research, he has been recognized with the Ira H. Abrams Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching at Penn.