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M. Ronen Plesser, Professor of Physics

M. Ronen Plesser

My research is in String Theory, the most ambitious attempt yet at a comprehensive theory of the fundamental structure of the universe. In some (rather imprecise) sense, string theory replaces the particles that form the fundamental building blocks for conventional theories (the fields, or wave phenomena, we observe are obtained starting from particles when we apply the principles of quantum mechanics) with objects that are not point-like but extended in one dimension – strings. At present, the theory is not precisely formulated, as we still seek the conceptual and technical tools needed. The structures we do have in hand suggest that, when formulated precisely, the theory will provide a consistent framework encompassing the two greatest achievements of twentieth century theoretical physics: Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which describes gravitational forces objects in terms of deformations of the geometry of spacetime; and quantum mechanics, a model of fundamental physics in which microscopic objects exhibit the properties of particles under some circumstances and those of waves under others. Both of these theories have been tested with extraordinary precision and yield predictions that agree with our observations of the physical universe. Relativistic effects are manifest at the largest scales in the universe, in the interactions of stars, galaxies, etc. The differences between a quantum mechanical description and a classical nineteenth century description of these objects are so small they can be neglected. Quantum effects dominate at the smallest scales – atoms and their constituents. In this realm, the effects of gravitation can be completely neglected. And yet, under extreme conditions of density, such as may obtain in the final instant of the evaporation of a black hole, both kinds of effects are important. A universal theory of physics thus requires a consistent quantum theory of gravity. Thus far, string theory is the most promising candidate for producing such a theory. Investigations of this theory have already yielded rich insights, and continue to produce more.

My own research centers on the crucial role played in the theory by geometric structures. There is an obvious role for geometry in a theory that incorporates gravitation, which as discussed above is tantamount to the geometry of spacetime. Related to this are several other, less obvious, geometric structures that play an important role in determining the physics of the theory. Indeed, advances in mathematics and in the physics of string theory have often been closely linked. An example of how the two fields have interacted in a surprising way is the ongoing story of mirror symmetry.

Contact Info:
Office Location:  245 Physics Bldg, 120 Science Drive, Durham, NC 27708
Office Phone:  (919) 660-9668
Email Address: send me a message
Web Page:

Teaching (Fall 2023):

    Physics 130, TuTh 10:05 AM-11:20 AM

Ph.D. Harvard University1991
M.A. Harvard University1988
BSTel Aviv University1981

Theoretical particle physics and string theory
Research Interests: String Theory and Quantum Field Theory

Current Ph.D. Students   (Former Students)

    Postdocs Mentored

    Recent Publications   (More Publications)

    1. Bertolini, M; Melnikov, IV; Plesser, MR, Fixed points of (0,2) Landau-Ginzburg renormalization group flows and the chiral algebra, Journal of High Energy Physics, vol. 2022 no. 9 (September, 2022), ISSN 1029-8479 [doi]  [abs]
    2. Marco Bertolini, Ilarion V. Melnikov, M. Ronen Plesser, Fixed points of (0,2) Landau-Ginzburg renormalization group flows and the chiral algebra (Preprint, June, 2021) [2106.00105]  [abs]
    3. Bertolini, M; Plesser, MR, (0,2) hybrid models, Journal of High Energy Physics, vol. 2018 no. 9 (September, 2018), Springer Nature America, Inc [doi]  [abs]
    4. Jockers, H; Katz, S; Morrison, DR; Plesser, MR, SU(N) Transitions in M-Theory on Calabi–Yau Fourfolds and Background Fluxes, Communications in Mathematical Physics, vol. 351 no. 2 (April, 2017), pp. 837-871, Springer Nature [doi]  [abs]
    5. Aspinwall, PS; Plesser, MR; Wang, K, Mirror Symmetry and Discriminants (February, 2017)  [abs]

    ph: 919.660.2800
    fax: 919.660.2821

    Mathematics Department
    Duke University, Box 90320
    Durham, NC 27708-0320