Nigel D. Goldenfeld

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Election Year: 2010
Primary Section: 33, Applied Physical Sciences
Secondary Section: 13, Physics
Membership Type: Member
Photo Credit: Lou McClellan

Research Interests

I am a theoretical physicist studying collective phenomena, statistical physics and non-equilibrium pattern formation in condensed matter, fluids and biology. In early work on the high temperature superconductors, my analysis of experimental data indicated that electrons form pairs in the d-wave angular momentum state, and uncovered the scaling behavior near the transition between normal and superconducting states. Using novel mathematical and computational methods, I have explored how patterns of nature arise through the interplay between transport processes, such as diffusion or convection, and nonlinear dynamics, such as surface-tension influenced interface motion occurring at solid-melt boundaries. Examples studied include the growth of snowflakes and dendrites in metals, the dynamics of landscapes at geothermal hot springs, and the kinetics of phase ordering in superfluids. Driven fluids are usually encountered in the turbulent state, and my recent research has shown how small-scale statistical fluctuations in velocity determine macroscopic flow properties of interest for engineering applications, such as the friction experienced when a fluid flows through a pipeline. Currently my group is studying collective effects in evolution and ecology, ranging from the evolution of the genetic code through horizontal transfer of genes to the fluctuation-driven patterns of plankton in the oceans.

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