CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Eduardo H. Fradkin, a professor of physics at the University of Illinois, has been elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Election to the American Academy is an honor that acknowledges the best of all scholarly fields and professions. Among the academy’s 210 other new fellows are U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela, Civil War historian James McPherson, and actors Dustin Hoffman and James Earl Jones. They will be inducted Oct. 10 during ceremonies at the academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.
“Professor Fradkin is an internationally recognized leader in theoretical physics who has made profound contributions to the application of quantum field theory to condensed matter physics,” said Richard Herman, the chancellor of the Urbana campus. “His election is yet another sign of a distinguished career and is a great source of pride to our institution.”
In his early work, Fradkin pioneered the use of concepts from condensed matter physics and statistical physics to problems in quantum field theory and high-energy physics. One of his most important results was the proof that when matter fields carry the fundamental unit of charge, the Higgs and confinement phases of gauge theories are smoothly connected and are as different as a liquid is from a gas. This result remains a cornerstone in our understanding of the phases of gauge theories and a lasting contribution to elementary particle physics.
More recently, Fradkin’s unique perspective allowed him to apply results from quantum field theory to condensed matter physics. He was one of the first theorists to use gauge theory concepts in the theory of spin glasses, and to use concepts of chaos and non-linear systems in equilibrium statistical mechanics of frustrated systems.
Fradkin also pioneered the use of Dirac fermions for condensed matter physics problems, particularly in two dimensions. A prime example is his work on Dirac fermions on random fields, which is now regarded as the universality class of the transition between quantum Hall plateaus in the integer Hall effect.
Another major achievement of Fradkin’s research has been the development, in collaboration with former graduate student Ana Lopez, of the fermion Chern-Simons field theory of the fractional quantum Hall effect. This theory, and its subsequent extensions by Fradkin and his collaborators to the non-Abelian quantum hall states, has played a key role in current research efforts in the theory of topological quantum computing.
Fradkin, in collaboration with Steven Kivelson (Stanford University) and the late Victor Emery (Brookhaven National Laboratory), developed the concept of electronic liquid crystal phases in strongly correlated electronic systems. This theory is one of the leading proposals to explain the mechanism of high-temperature superconductivity, and it is the focus of a current major experimental research effort.
Fradkin is a fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the Asociación Física Argentina (Argentine Physical Association) and an editor of the Journal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment.
Fradkin earned his master’s degree in physics in 1973 from Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina, and his doctorate in physics in 1979 from Stanford. He came to Illinois as a postdoctoral research associate in 1979, and joined the faculty in 1981.
The American Academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock and other scholar-patriots “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity and happiness of a free, independent and virtuous people.”
The academy has more than 4,000 fellows and 600 foreign honorary members, which includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and 60 Pulitzer Prize winners. The academy focuses its research on international security, social policy, education and the humanities.