Department for General and Applied Physics, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

Chair for "Problems in theoretical physics"

based at Landau Institute for theoretical physics


The chair for "Problems in theoretical physics" was founded in 1966 and is based at the Landau Institute for theoretical physics of the Academy of Sciences, established in 1964. The chair and the Institute were founded by the "Landau school", that is by his students, later Academy members, L.P.Gor'kov (head of the chair for the first 25 years), A.A.Abrikosov (2003 Nobel Prize winner), I.E.Dzyaloshinskii, and I.M.Khalatnikov. PhD and diploma students were taught by outstanding theoretical physicists — Landau's students A.B.Migdal and V.N.Gribov, "students of the students" academy member I.A.Larkin and V.L.Pokrovsky — who have joined the Institute later. The development of the chair was strongly influenced by academy members S.P.Novikov, Ya.G.Sinai, V.E.Zakharov, S.I.Anisimov. About 250 theorists have graduated from the chair over the years (see the alumni and theses pages). Most of them have received the Candidate (PhD) degree, about 40 have received the higher Doctorate (habilitation) degree. V.V.Lebedev, the present director of the Institute, and Yu.G.Mahlin were elected corresponding members of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Our alumni have contributed significantly to the theory of superconductivity and superfluidity (4 and 3) as well as to the development of the theory of mesoscopic electronic systems, with size intermediate between atoms and molecules on one side and macroscopic solids on the other. Such systems are of great current interest due to continuous miniaturization of practical semiconductor devices and development of their superconducting analogs. As an example of close relation of the theoretical research at our chair to the experiment one can mention the work of three students at the time A.Kitaev, P.Kalugin, and L.Levitov. In the experiment new materials were discovered, later named quasicrystals. They had a fifth-order rotational symmetry, which is forbidden for periodic crystals. In their paper, one of the first in the world, they showed that such symmetry is allowed for quasi-periodic structures with two overlapping periods. In all the areas mentioned our graduates did pioneering work, part of which can now be found in modern textbooks.

The graduates of the chair work in major research centers in Russia and worldwide: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Los-Alamos, Argonne, and Brookhaven laboratories, California Institute of Technology, Universities of Chicago, New York, Rutgers, Universities of Paris, Zurich, Rome, and many others.

Our graduates receive a broad fundamental education. Some of them lead editorial boards of well-known journals like "Kvant" or "Priroda", others were cofounders of international computer companies such as Metacreations, Real3D, NumeriX. There is no doubt that theoretical physics and its approaches will flourish in the XXI century. Among the most important applications are theory of new phases of matter, theory of gravitation and cosmology, closely related to the new experimental data about the structure of the Universe being received from space stations, theory of fundamental interactions. Research into the usage of quantum devices for computing has already begun. The most important feature of prospective quantum computers is based on the ability of quantum systems to support, along with any two states, also their sum (superposition principle), whereas a classical bit can be put only in one of two possible states. The graduates of our chair are world-leading researchers in many of the mentioned topics. A.Yu.Kitaev is awarded by the 2012 Fundamental Physics Prize for the theoretical idea of implementing robust quantum memories and fault-tolerant quantum computation using topological quantum phases, by the 2015 Dirac medal for his interdisciplinary contribution which introduced concepts of conformal field theory and non-abelian quasiparticle statistics in condensed matter systems and applications of these ideas to quantum computation, and by the 2017 Oliver Buckley Condensed Matter Physics Prize for theories of topological order and its consequences in a broad range of physical systems. G.E.Volovik is awarded by the 2004 Simon Memorial Prize. Also, G.E.Volovik and V.P.Mineev received the 2014 Lars Onsager Prize for their contribution to a comprehensive classification of topological defects in condensed matter phases with broken symmetry. N.B.Kopnin is awarded by the 2011 Simon Memorial Prize for his calculations and predictions of the fundamental force acting on quantised vortices in superfluids, superconductors and other ordered systems: the Kopnin force. P.B.Wiegmann received the 2017 Lars Onsager Prize for the pioneering discovery of the exact solution of the Kondo and Anderson models, opening a new field of exact treatments of quantum impurity systems.

In recent years our students do research in the following fields:

Some of our graduates continue their education at Universities abroad. Often they combine their education at the graduate schools of the Landau Institute and a foreign research center. Masters-degree students make research visits to various Universities during their studies. The staff of the Landau Institute keep close scientific ties and collaborate with scientists at many leading research centers of the world, and our undergrads and graduate students take part in collaborations with research groups, for instance, at such Universities as Rutgers University, Universities of California, Texas, Paris, ETH Zurich, Aalto University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Los-Alamos national laboratory, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Weizmann Institute, and many others.

At present, the chair is headed by Prof. M.Feigelman and his deputy Dr. Ya.Fominov. About 20 members of the Landau Institute, including three members of the Academy, teach our students and advise them during their research work. Our thesis advisors are listed among the top-cited Russian scientists.

During their studies our students take the exams from Landau's theoretical minimum, based mostly on the famous Landau-Lifshitz course in theoretical physics. A student can join the chair during the admission to the MIPT or at a later stage after having passed the respective exams from the theoretical-minimum series.

From the first days of the chair operation, the traditionally informal communication style is combined with strict requirements to the students' academic achievements and research work. A student chooses an advisor, typically at the beginning of the 4th year of studies (or earlier if the necessary exams of Landau's theoretical minimum have been passed). Afterwards, the basic expectation is the student's active research work in the chosen field. Along with an extra scholarship from the chair, the students work within their advisor's research projects. Our students have access to a powerful computational cluster, a high-speed internet connection, online versions of the leading scientific journals and many other ingredients needed for successful modern education.