Cumrun Vafa (Persian: کامران وفا, pronounced [kɔːmˈrɔːn væˈfɔː]; born 1960 in Tehran) is an Iranian leading string theorist from Harvard University where he started as a Harvard Junior Fellow. He is a recipient of the 2008 Dirac Medal.
Birth and education
Cumrun Vafa was born in Tehran, Iran in 1960. He graduated from Alborz Boys School and went to the US in 1978. He got his undergraduate degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a double major in physics and mathematics. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1985 under the supervision of Edward Witten. He then became a junior fellow at Harvard, where he later got a junior faculty position. In 1989 he was offered a senior faculty position, and he has been there ever since. Currently, he is the Donner Professor of Science at Harvard University.
Cumrun Vafa is a string theorist. His research is focused on the nature of quantum gravity and the relation between geometry and quantum field theories. He is known in the string theory community for his co-discovery, with Strominger, that the Bekenstein-Hawking entropy of a black hole can be accounted for by solitonic states of superstring theory, and for expounding the relation between geometry and field theories that arise through string dualities (culminating in the Gopakumar-Vafa conjecture). This topic has been known as “geometric engineering of quantum field theories”. In 1997, he developed F-theory.
He is also interested in understanding the underlying meaning of string dualities, as well as trying to apply superstring theory to some unsolved questions of elementary particle physics such as the hierarchy problem and the cosmological constant problem.
He is also a trustee of Network of Iranians for Knowledge and Innovation (NIKI).