High-Energy and Gravitational Theory

Brandeis has long been at the forefront of theoretical research in classical and quantum gravity, cosmology, quantum field theory, and elementary particle physics. Recent contributions by members of the group include work in fundamental aspects of string theory, applications of string theory to cosmology, the physics and mathematics of realistic four-dimensional string models, supersymmetric Yang-Mills theories, supersymmetry breaking, the quantum theory of supergravity, the quantum mechanics of black holes, lower-dimensional quantum field theories, and topological field theories.

The group consists of two faculty members, one or two postdoctoral research associates, and advanced graduate students. Much of the work is collaborative, and graduate students are heavily involved in the day-to-day research. The group is supported by a long-running grant from the Department of Energy.


Professor Matthew Headrick’s research interests include string theory and related areas of quantum field theory, general relativity, and geometry. He has recently worked on problems involving tachyons in string theory, the deconfinement transition in the AdS/CFT duality, and numerical methods for solving the Einstein equation in the Euclidean context, such as on Calabi-Yau manifolds.

Professor Albion Lawrence’s research includes the mathematics of supersymmetric string compactifications, nonperturbative definitions of string theory, the interface between string theory and observational cosmology, nonperturbative methods in quantum field theory, the quantum mechanics of black holes, the nature of dynamical singularities in gravity (i.e. at the big bang), and qualitative questions of particle physics (such as supersymmetry breaking and axion dynamics) for which an understanding of cosmology and quantum gravity could play a role.

Emeritus Members and History

Emeritus members of the group include:

History of the HEGT Group

The high energy and gravitational theory program at Brandeis began in the late l950’s. The prominent senior members of the group were Professors Stanley Deser (member of the National Academy of Sciences, Dannie Heinemann award winner, and many other honors); Howard Schnitzer (Guggenheim fellow, Sloan Foundation fellow, fellow of the American Physical society); Marcus Grisaru; and Hugh Pendleton. A number of students have been trained by the group; among the most important are Kellogg Stelle (Deser) and Larry Abbott and Paul Townsend, FRS (Schnitzer). Postdoctoral fellows played a substantial part in the research activities of the group. A subset of the many postdocs are Mike Duff, Ulf Lindstrom, Dominco Seminara, Peter van Nieuwenhuizen, Andrew Waldron, Richard Woodard (Deser); Burt Ovrut, Dimitra Karabali, Steven Naculich, Rafael Nepomechie, Niclas Wyllard (Schnitzer); Warren Siegel (Grisaru).

The group has made a number of important contributions. As these cannot all be enumerated, we give a very selected list of highlights.

Among Deser’s many and wide-reaching contributions was the ADM approach to general relativity; the study of the divergences and finiteness in quantum gravity loop expansions (in collaboration with students and postdocs); the discovery of supergravity (in collaboration with B. Zumino); topological massive gravity with R. Jackiw, conformal anomalies with A. Schwimmer, and many other significant contributions.

Schnitzer has a very wide range of interests. Among these was participation in the early development of current algebra in collaboration with S. Glashow and S. Weinberg; contributions to the development of the eight-fold way with S. Coleman; the discovery of the Reggeization of elementary particles in gauge theories with M. Grisaru; effective field theory with B. Ovrut; gauged WZW models with D. Karabali; discovery and development of level-rank duality in conformal field theory with S. Naculich; as well as a number of topics of current interest.

Grisaru was prominent in the extensive development of supersymmetry and supergravity, in collaboration with W. Siegel, M. Rocek, D. Zanon, and many others.  Notable is the derivation of the Ward identities of supersymmetric theories in collaboration with Pendleton, which  remains an important result.