Douglas Stanford

2017 Regional Award Finalist — Post-Doc

Douglas Stanford

Current Position:
Long-Term Member

Institute for Advanced Study


Recognized for: Contributions to our understanding of quantum gravity and condensed matter physics

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: Quantum gravity, quantum field theory, string theory, quantum chaos


PhD, Physics, Stanford University
MS, Mathematics, University of Cambridge
BS, Physics and Mathematics, Stanford University

Douglas Stanford’s work uses black holes as an environment to study the interplay between two big concepts in physics: quantum mechanics and chaos. Black holes have traditionally been explained using classical mechanics – the everyday rules we associate with Newton – but Dr. Stanford’s research is instead focused on deepening our understanding their quantum properties. As a part of this research, he has explored the nature of chaos in quantum mechanics.

Working on these topics with colleagues Stephen Shenker and Juan Maldacena, he was able to prove that black holes are the most chaotic systems possible in nature. Studying chaos in the context of black holes has also led to a new characterization of quantum chaos, and has motivated several experiments to measure chaos in more practical condensed matter systems.

His most recent work has been focused on a quantum mechanical model system that is simple enough to be solvable using existing approaches, but that still manages to describe aspects of a black hole in a two dimensional universe. Ultimately, this study could have implications for diverse areas of application, including quantum computing and cosmology.

“Right now we are trying to understand quantum black holes. This is a step towards a complete picture of quantum gravity, which is needed to understand the big bang and how the universe began. One can also dream that someday in the distant future, quantum gravity could even become a practical computational tool in many areas of science and technology.”


Key Publications:

  1. S.H. Shenker and D. Stanford, "Stringy Effects in Scrambling," JHEP 1505 132 (2015)
  2. J. Maldacena, S.H. Shenker and D. Stanford, “A bound on chaos,''  JHEP 1608, 106 (2016)
  3. J. Maldacena and D. Stanford,  “Remarks on the Sachdev-Ye-Kitaev model,''  Phys. Rev. D 94, no. 10, 106002 (2016)
  4. D. Stanford and E. Witten, "Fermionic Localization of the Schwarzian Theory," JHEP in press (2017)

Other Honors:
Goldwater Scholarship 2008
Marshall Scholarship 2009
NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, 2010
Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics Graduate Fellowship, 2013

In the Media: