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Mathematical Sciences
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Dr Andy O'Bannon 

Lecturer in Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Royal Society Research Fellow

Dr Andy O'Bannon's photo

Dr Andy O'Bannon is a Lecturer and Royal Society University Research Fellow at the STAG Research Centre of the University of Southampton.

Work history

2015-present: Royal Society University Research Fellow and Senior Researcher, STAG Research Centre, University of Southampton

2013-15: Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Oxford

2010-13: Research Associate (postdoc), DAMTP, University of Cambridge

2008-10: Research Fellow (postdoc), Max Planck Institute for Physics, Munich

2002-08: M.S. and Ph.D. in Physics, University of Washington, Seattle. Advisor: Prof. Andreas Karch.

2002-07: Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Scholar (full funding for graduate studies)

1998-2002: B.A. in Physics and the Writing Seminars, the Johns Hopkins University


BA Physics and the Writing Seminars, Johns Hopkins University (1998-2002)

PhD, University of Washington, Seattle (2002-2008, Advisor: Prof. Andreas Karch)

Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Physics, Munich, Germany (2008-10)

Research Associate, DAMTP, University of Cambridge (2010-13)

Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Oxford (2013-15) and University of Southampton (2015-present)

Research interests

My research is focused on strongly-interacting systems with unusual transport properties. An example from particle physics is the quark-gluon plasma, the hot soup of quarks an gluons that existed micro-seconds after the Big Bang, and is reproduced. The quark-gluon plasma has a shear viscosity lower than any other known fluid. An example from condensed matter physics are the "strange metal" states of heavy fermion compounds and high-temperature superconductors. These materials have an electrical resistivity scaling as the square of temperature, unlike the linear scaling of most metals. Few reliable techniques exist to study such systems. As a result, the origins of their unusual properties remain mysterious.

To study such systems, I use a novel technique, discovered in string theory, called holography. Holography is the statement that certain strongly-interacting systems are equivalent, in a precise mathematical sense, to Einstein’s theory of gravity in one higher dimension. In other words, by calculating things in Einstein’s theory of gravity, we can learn about the quark-gluon plasma, strange metals, and more!

To be clear, the systems involved in holography are purely theoretical, and do not describe any particular real system. However, they have the potential to reveal general principles applicable to real systems. In other words, holography provides "toy models" that may reveal patterns characteristic of strongly-interacting systems. Indeed, holography already has a success story: all fluids described by holography have the same ratio of shear viscosity to entropy density, of roughly 0.1. That value is shockingly close to the value estimated for the quark-gluon plasma, which is also roughly 0.1. Holography thus revealed a general principle: a ratio of shear viscosity to entropy density of roughly 0.1 is characteristic of strongly-interacting fluids.

The goal of my research is to find similar "universal" properties. Indeed, with various collaborators I have discovered substantial evidence for generic, if not completely universal, properties of the electrical resistivity, impurity physics, entanglement, and more in many holographic systems. Above all, I have learned that holography and string theory have much to teach us about strongly-interacting systems!

Research group

Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics

Affiliate research group

String Theory and Holography

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Module co-ordinator for Synoptic Physics: PHYS3017 and PHYS6015

Dr Andy O'Bannon
Building 54 Mathematical Sciences University of Southampton Highfield Southampton SO17 1BJ

Room Number : 46/5059

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