Center for Theoretical Physics


The Center for Theoretical Physics (CTP) is a unified research and teaching center focused on fundamental physics. CTP activities range from string theory and cosmology at the highest energies down through unification and beyond-the-standard-model physics, through the standard model, to QCD, hadrons, quark matter, and nuclei at the low energy scale.

Members of the CTP are also currently working on quantum computation and on energy policy. The breadth and depth of research in nuclear, particle, string, and gravitational physics at the CTP makes it a unique environment for researchers in these fields.

In addition to the 15 MIT faculty members working in the CTP, at any one time there are roughly a dozen postdoctoral fellows, and as many, or more, long-term visitors working at the postdoctoral or faculty level. The CTP supports 25-35 MIT graduate students, who work with the faculty and postdocs on problems across the energy spectrum.

Research areas include:

  • Cosmology and the early universe
  • String theory
  • Phenomenology beyond the standard model
  • Probing the standard model
  • Quantum Field theory
  • Hadron structure and lattice QCD
  • Condensed matter physics of QCD
  • Quantum computing
  • Energy research
CTP 4th Floor

The breadth and depth of research in nuclear, particle, string, and gravitational physics at the CTP makes it a unique environment for researchers in these fields.

Faculty and Principal Investigators

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Research and Academic Staff

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Administrative, Support, and Technical Staff

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Dr. Frank Wilczek Receives 2022 Templeton Prize

Wilczek Joins Past Laureates Mother Teresa and Jane Goodall to Receive One of the World’s Largest Individual Lifetime Achievement Awards.

Frank Wilczek

May 11, 2022

Engelhardt named 2022 Sloan Research Fellow

Early-career researchers honored for creativity, innovation, and research accomplishments.

Netta Englehardt

February 16, 2022

The problem-solver: Cosmic inflation

Just over 40 years ago, a new theory about the early universe provided a way to tackle multiple cosmological conundrums at once.


November 9, 2021

Four MIT faculty members receive 2021 US Department of Energy early career awards

Faculty from the departments of Physics and of Nuclear Science and Engineering faculty were selected for the Early Career Research Program.

2021 DOE Early Career winners photo

June 24, 2021

New Frank Wilczek book looks at ten keys to reality

To understand ourselves and our place in the universe, “we should have humility but also self-respect,” the physicist writes in a new book.


January 12, 2021

Xiaojun Yao on Quantum Computer and the Subatomic Universe

CTP postdoc Xiaojun Yao is in an article about how physicists are exploring quantum computing as a valuable new tool in their quest to understand the subatomic universe.

CMS Detector at CERN

December 10, 2020

Five MIT researchers receive awards from the American Physical Society

William Barletta, Ronald Fernando Garcia Ruiz, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Katelin Schutz, and Phiala Shanahan honored for contributions to physics.

William Barletta, Ronald Fernando Garcia Ruiz, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Katelin Schutz, and Phiala Shanahan honored for contributions to physics.

November 4, 2020

Daniel Harlow awarded Packard Foundation Fellowship

Physics professor receives one of the most prestigious nongovernmental awards for early-career scientists.

Daniel Harlow

October 20, 2020

Phiala Shanahan wins APS Maria Goeppert Mayer Award

To recognize and enhance outstanding achievement by a woman physicist in the early years of her career, and to provide opportunities for her to present these achievements to others through public lectures in the spirit of Maria Goeppert Mayer.

Phiala Shanahan

October, 2020

Phiala Shanahan Named Science News Scientist to Watch

This year’s SN 10 scientists aim to solve some of science’s biggest challenges.

Phiala Shanahan

September 30, 2020

Four from MIT awarded 2021 New Horizons in Physics and New Frontiers in Mathematics prizes

Physicists Tracy Slatyer and Netta Engelhardt and mathematicians Lisa Piccirillo and Nina Holden PhD ’18 are honored by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation.

Photo: Clockwise from upper left: Tracy Slatyer, Netta Engelhardt, Nina Holden, and Lisa Piccirillo.

September 10, 2020

National Science Foundation announces MIT-led Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Fundamental Interactions

IAIFI will advance physics knowledge — from the smallest building blocks of nature to the largest structures in the universe — and galvanize AI research innovation.


August 26, 2020

Can a quantum strategy help bring down the house?

Study finds quantum entanglement could, in principle, give a slight advantage in the game of blackjack.

Illustration - MIT study finds quantum entanglement gives slight advantage in playing against the house.

August 3, 2020

Four MIT faculty members receive U.S. Department of Energy early career awards

Faculty from the departments of physics, chemical engineering, and mechanical engineering were selected for the 2020 Early Career Research Program.

DOE Early Career Recipients

July 15, 2020

Exploring the quantum field, from the sun’s core to the Big Bang

Theoretical physicist William Detmold unlocks the mysteries of quarks, gluons, and their “strong interactions” at the subatomic level.

William Detmold

May 13, 2020

Is there dark matter at the center of the Milky Way?

A new analysis puts dark matter back in the game as a possible source of energy excess at the galactic center.

A map of gamma ray emissions throughout the Milky Way galaxy, based on observations from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

December 10, 2019

Engelhardt honored with prestigious 2019 Blavatnik Regional Award for Young Scientists

Winning postdoctoral scientists include a neuroscientist researching mosquito feeding habits, a theoretical physicist investigating the relationship between quantum gravity and black holes...

Netta Engelhardt

September 4, 2019

Physicists design an experiment to pin down the origin of the elements

With help from next-generation particle accelerators, the approach may nail down the rate of oxygen production in the universe.

Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble

August 20, 2019

Data-mining for dark matter

Tracy Slatyer hunts through astrophysical data for clues to the invisible universe.

Tracy Slatyer

August 15, 2019

Daniel Freedman wins Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

MIT professor emeritus will share $3 million prize with Sergio Ferrara and Peter van Nieuwenhuizen for discovery of supergravity.

Daniel Freedman

August 6, 2019

Seeking new physics, scientists borrow from social networks

Technique can spot anomalous particle smashups that may point to phenomena beyond the Standard Model.

particle collision

July 25, 2019

Meet the 2019 tenured professors in the School of Science

Eight faculty members are granted tenure in five science departments.

tenured faculty

July 10, 2019

Physicists calculate proton’s pressure distribution for first time

The particle’s core withstands pressures higher than those inside a neutron star, according to a new study.

Proton Pressure

February 22, 2019

Four from MIT named 2019 Sloan Research Fellows

Nikhil Agarwal, Daniel Harlow, Andrew Lawrie, and Yufei Zhao receive early-career fellowships.

Daniel Harlow

February 21, 2019

Evans, Barsotti and Harlow Win 2019 Breakthrough New Horizons Prize

Four other MIT researchers to receive New Horizons Prizes in math and physics; two alumni win Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.

News Image

October 17, 2018

Center for Theoretical Physics Professors Earn DOE Quantum Information Science Awards

Professors Daniel Harlow, Aram Harrow, Hong Liu, and Jesse Thaler among the first recipients of new honor for advances in quantum understanding.

This illustration shows a multi-jet event recorded by the CMS detector at the Large Hadron Collider

October 12, 2018

School of Science Welcomes 10 Professors

New faculty join the departments of Biology, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, and Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.

10 New School of Science Professors

September 19, 2018

Light From Ancient Quasars Helps Confirm Qantum Entanglement

Results are among the strongest evidence yet for “spooky action at a distance.”

The quasar dates back to less than one billion years after the big bang.The quasar dates back to less than one billion years after the big bang

August 19, 2018

Project to Elucidate the Structure of Atomic Nuclei at the Femtoscale

Laboratory for Nuclear Science project selected to explore machine learning for lattice quantum chromodynamics.

Image of nucleus

July 6, 2018

3Q: Ernest Moniz on the Vatican climate dialogue

Professor emeritus and former U.S. energy secretary reflects on recent meeting with Pope Francis and energy and finance leaders.

Ernest Moniz

June 12, 2018

Center for Theoretical Physics Celebrates 50 Years

Symposium explores how novel ideas and experiments are advancing many areas of theoretical physics in newly interconnected ways.

CTP Group picture

March 28, 2018

CTP Featured in MIT Spotlight Video: Scaffolding of the Universe (Watch the YouTube video)

In the Center for Theoretical Physics at MIT, researchers develop ideas for describing the fundamental physical laws governing our universe...

CTP 4th floor foyer

January 3, 2018