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Sean Hartnoll

Associate Professor of Physics



PhD, Cambridge University,
Part III, Cambridge University
BA, Cambridge University

Research Interests

I am a theorist working on problems in condensed matter, high energy and gravitational physics.

The anomalous transport behavior of quantum many-body systems — including unconventional materials such as high temperature superconductors and other ‘strange metals’, artificial ultracold atomic systems and the strongly coupled quark gluon plasma — is a longstanding theoretical challenge that I have approached from several angles. I have suggested that transport in these systems may be controlled by fundamental limitations imposed by quantum statistical mechanics. To this end, I have established bounds on quantum transport that connect the macroscopic properties of these systems to quantities such as the local thermalization rate and underlying quantum mechanical `Lieb-Robinson’ velocities. In parallel to this ”bird’s eye” approach, I am also increasingly interested in specific scattering mechanisms in unconventional materials that may give a relatively simple explanation of transport behavior that has otherwise been considered anomalous — using this approach my collaborators and I have ‘demystified’ aspects of transport in quantum critical ruthenate materials.

I am also working on understanding aspects of the emergence of spacetime from large N matrix quantum mechanics models. These can be thought of as the simplest models of holographic duality, and will likely hold the key to understanding the emergence of local physics as well as black holes.

Along with many other theorists, I have found in recent years that the holographic correspondence, the physics of quantum entanglement and quantum field theory more generally have led to strong and unanticipated connections between central concerns in condensed matter and high energy physics.


See Publications for Sean Hartnoll