Stephen H. Shenker

Stanford University

Primary Section: 13, Physics
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2015)


Stephen Shenker is a theoretical physicist who is known for his work on the dynamics of quantum field theory and quantum gravity. Examples include his work on nonperturbative definitions of string theory and M theory. Shenker was born in Alexandria, Virginia in 1953. He received his AB from Harvard University, and his PhD from Cornell University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago and the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara. He was on the faculty of the University of Chicago and Rutgers University, where was a founding member of the New High Energy Theory Center. He is currently the Richard Herschel Weiland Professor at Stanford University, and was director of the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics from 1998 to 2009. Shenker is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Stephen Shenker and his collaborators have worked on a number of aspects of quantum field theory and quantum gravity. They investigated the phase structure of gauge theories coupled to matter including the connection between Higgs and confining phases. They studied the properties of two dimensional conformal field theories, classifying the possibly unitary theories in a certain domain and finding the hidden supersymmetry in the tricritical ising model. They explored the perturbative and nonperturbative dynamics of string theory. In particular they gave nonperturbative definitions of low dimensional string theories, uncovering intrinsically stringy nonperturbative effects. They found a nonperturbative definition of M theory as a nongravitational quantum mechanical system. Recently they have studied the interplay between the quantum dynamics of black holes and quantum chaos, and have found a bound on the rate of development of quantum chaos.

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