Scott A. Hughes

Fellow: Awarded 2012

Field of Study: Physics

Competition: US & Canada


Scott Hughes is Associate Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  A native of Pennsylvania, he received a Bachelor's degree in physics from Cornell University in 1993 and a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1998.  Following short postdoctoral positions at the University of Illinois and at Caltech, and a longer position at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at UC Santa Barbara, he joined the MIT faculty as Assistant Professor in 2003.  He held the Class of 1956 Career Development Chair from 2005 to 2008, when he was promoted to Associate Professor.

His research focuses upon astrophysical applications of Einstein's general theory of relativity.  Much of his work is motivated by new techniques for probing regions of ultrastrong gravity, especially near black holes.  A major focus of this work is the science of ``gravitational waves.''  Gravitational waves arise from accelerating masses much as electromagnetic waves arise from accelerating charges.  They manifest as tidal forces, gently squeezing and stretching as they propagate through the universe at the speed of light.  The direct measurement of gravitational waves is the goal of new large-scale interferometric antennas that have recently begun operating around the world.  Professor Hughes works on the modeling of gravitational wave sources, and on how one can exploit measured gravitational waves as tools for observational astronomy.  Further information on research in Hughes' group, including links to publications and audio/video material describing gravitational-wave sources, can be found at his group's website.

Professor Hughes gets great joy from teaching.  He has taught undergraduate electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, and relativity, as well as MIT's graduate course in general relativity, and graduate seminars on gravitational-wave physics and computational methods.  In 2005, he won the Physics Department's Buechner Teaching Prize for his course on electricity and magnetism, and was honored with MIT's School of Science teaching prize in 2006.