Morningstar Professor of Physics

ROBERT L. JAFFE, Jane and Otto Morningstar Professor of Physics

Name: Robert L. Jaffe

Title(s): Jane and Otto Morningstar Professor of Physics

Email: jaffe@mit.edu

Phone: (617) 253-4858

Assistant: Joyce Berggren (617) 253-4827


Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Avenue, Bldg. 6-411
Cambridge, MA 02139

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Area of Physics:

Theoretical Particle Physics


General Interest Publications & Lectures

Research Interests

Professor Jaffe's research specialty is the physics of elementary particles and quantum field theory, especially the dynamics of quark confinement and the Standard Model. Most recently he has been researching the dynamical effects of the quantum vacuum(Casimir Effects) on micron scales. He has also worked on the quantum theory of tubes, the astrophysics of dense matter and many problems in scattering theory. Jaffe teaches quantum mechanics,field theory, mechanics and electrodynamics at the advanced undergraduate and graduate levels.

Jaffe is best known for his research on the quark substructure of matter. In the early 1970s he and his colleagues at MIT formulated the first consistent description of quark confinement, the "MIT Bag Model." Together with John Ellis of CERN, Jaffe formulated a sum rule which relates polarized lepton scattering to the spin substructure of the nucleon. Tests of this sum rule sparked a renewal of interest in the hadron spin physics. His more recent work in this area (in collaboration with Xiangdong Ji of the University of Maryland) includes the elucidation of the "transversity," a novel quark spin observable accessible in hard scattering experiments. He has been deeply involved in the development of the spin physics program at Brookhaven National Lab. Jaffe also began the systematic study of exotic hadrons in the 1970s. He proposed that the scalar (spinless) mesons should be interpreted as two quark, two antiquark states, an interpretation which has only recently won wide acceptance.  He and Kenneth Johnson (at MIT) launched the theory of glueballs—hadrons made entirely of the gluons which mediate confining forces. Together with Edward Farhi (also at MIT), Jaffe first described the properties of strange quark matter and explored its significance in astrophysics.

In the late 1990's Jaffe, Farhi, and collaborators developed analytical and computational tools for the study of quantum vacuum energies—Casimir energies—with applications to problems ranging from micromachinery to beyond the Standard Model. Recently this work has taken a practical turn: Antonello Scardicchio (MIT, now Princeton) and Mehran Kardar (MIT), Jaffe developed powerful practical methods to determine the geometry dependence of Casimir forces as they affect micro-electro-mechancial systems (MEMS). Most recently, in collaboration with Thorsten Emig (CNRS- Saclay), Noah Graham (Middlebury), and Kardar, Jaffe has developed practical methods to compute electromagnetic Casimir forces and torques between compact objects of arbitrary shapes whether perfect conductors or dielectrics. This work promises major advances in the calculation of Casimir forces.

Jaffe continues to work on the physics of quarks and hadrons. In 2003 Jaffe and Frank Wilczek (MIT) reconsidered the importance of di-quark correlations in quantum chromodynamics. In 2005 and 2006 Jaffe and collaborators explored the importance of parity doubling in hadron spectroscopy, and categorized "ordinary" and "extraordinary" resonances in QCD.

Biographical Sketch

Robert L. Jaffe is the Jane and Otto Morningstar Professor of Physics at MIT, and the former Director of the MIT Center for Theoretical Physics. Professor Jaffe received his AB, summa cum laude in Physics from Princeton, where he was Valedictorian of the Class of 1968. He received his MS and PhD degrees from Stanford in 1971 and 1972, respectively. At Stanford he founded the Stanford Workshops on Political and Social Issues.

In 1972 Jaffe came to MIT as a postdoctoral research associate in the Center for Theoretical Physics. He joined the faculty in 1974. From 1975 until 1979, he was an A. P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellow. Professor Jaffe has spent sabbatical years at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (1976), Oxford University and the European Center for Nuclear Research (1978-9), at Boston University (1986-7), and at Harvard University (1996-7. In 2004 Jaffe was a resident scholar at the Rockefeller Foundation Study Center at Bellagio, Italy. He has served on the program advisory committees of several national laboratories and for many years he was the chairman of the Advisory Council of the Physics Department of Princeton University. He now serves as Chair of the Science and Engineering Steering Committee of Brookhaven National Laboratory and a member of the Brookhaven Science Associates Board of Directors. Since 1996 he has been an advisor to and Visiting Scientist at the RIKEN-Brookhaven Research Center. Jaffe is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has been awarded the Science Council Prize for Excellence in Teaching Undergraduates (1983), the Graduate Student Council Teaching Award (1988), and the Physics Department Buechner Teaching Prize (1997). In January 1998, Jaffe was named a Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow (1998) in recognition of his contributions to MIT's teaching program. Since 2005 Jaffe has been collaborating on the development of a new private university of science and technology in Lahore, Pakistan, as a member and chair of their external advisory committee. The new Lahore University of Management and Science, School of Science and Engineering, will admit its first freshman class in the Fall of 2008. In November 2007, Jaffe was elected to a three year term on the American Physical Society's Panel on Public Affairs.

Jaffe has been very active in MIT affairs. He was cofounder of the Symposium at MIT, an interdisciplinary faculty program dedicated to improving communication and the exchange of ideas within the faculty. He has served as chairman of MIT's Committee on the Undergraduate Program and its Faculty Policy Committee. In 1992 he was elected to a term as Chair of the MIT Faculty which concluded in June of 1995.

CV & Bibliography

Selected Publications

Recent Seminars & Colloquia

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Last updated on February 13, 2014 2:21 PM