Nobel Conference 49 Profile of Frank Wilczek

Posted on March 21st, 2013 by

What is matter? We’ve come a long way toward a solid understanding of matter in the last forty years, while at the same time gaining new insight into the nature of space and an inspiring vision of the symmetry of physical law.

Emerging from the strange and once-revolutionary ideas of quantum theory and special relativity, the analytic theories of matter are now the core of modern physics. Physicist Frank Wilczek’s first work in this area, the development of our current understanding of the strong force and the development of quantum chromodynamics, garnered him the Nobel Prize in 2004. Dr. Wilczek shares the prize with his advisor, David Gross (he was just a graduate student at Princeton University in 1973, at the time of their work together) and H. David Politzer, who also developed the theory independently. They discovered the concept of asymptotic freedom, which holds that the closer quarks are to each other, the weaker is the force between them. And when quarks are in extreme proximity, the strong nuclear force between them is so weak that they behave almost as free particles.

Wilczek earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1970, at the age of 19 and his M.A. in mathematics in 1972 and a Ph.D. in physics in 1974 from Princeton University. He worked at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton) and the Institute for Theoretical Physics (UC, Santa Barbara), and was a visiting professor at the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics (NORDITA) in Stockholm, Sweden, before joining the faculty of MIT in 2000.

Because Professor Wilczek has worked on an unusually wide range of topics, spanning condensed matter physics, astrophysics, and particle physics, we felt he was a natural to lead off Nobel Conference 49, “The Universe at Its Limits.” He will help us explore answers to questions like, What was the early universe like? What is space? Where does mass come from? These questions are now ripe and the answers near, with tantalizing numerical evidence from Wiczek’s MIT research group. Now is an especially exciting time, because the dramatic predictions that these theories make are now being tested at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN.

We hope that you can join us for Nobel Conference 49, “The Universe at Its Limits,” on October 1 & 2, to learn more about Dr. Wilczek’s work and, indeed, about our universe. Tickets will be on sale starting April 15. For ticket information and information about the conference, the speakers, and the Nobel concert, visit


One Comment

  1. Richard M. Carter says:

    I will be there with Dr.Ronald Mead for the fifth time.