Profile: Martin Schaden

Associate Professor

Department of Physics

The Physics Department and Rutgers University grieve the sudden loss of Martin Schaden on July 14, 2016.

Eulogy for Dr. Martin Schaden


Zhen Wu

November 9, 2016


Dr. Martin Schaden joined the Physics Department at Rutgers-Newark in 2004. Martin was undoubtedly a first-rate theoretical physicist, but what struck me most is the breadth of his knowledge of physics and his interest in experimental physics. Here I see a similarity between Martin and T. D. Lee, a Nobel Laureate at Columbia University. When I was a graduate student at Columbia, the Physics Department had a coffee hour at 4 pm every day. T. D. Lee was always surrounded by experimental high energy physicists. I was told that it was not uncommon that their experimental problems were solved in this informal coffee hour conversation with T. D. Lee either by a question or a suggestion by him. Even though the physics department at Rutgers-Newark is too small to have a coffee hour, Martin would often pop into my lab and ask how the experiment was going. When he was in the lab, he was like a child, very excited and very curious about everything. He was always interested in the experiment, and like T. D. Lee, he sometimes had interesting ideas for solving problems in the experiment. He would always preface his comments or suggestions by saying "Maybe I'm stupid but how about this?" This characteristic modesty of Martin forms a striking contrast to his extraordinary intelligence.

I see another similarity between Martin and T. D. Lee. The speed of their thinking processes is truly astonishing. I remember when I was at Princeton University I attended a seminar given by T. D. Lee. David Gross, a future Nobel Laureate, was in the audience. He was trying to ask a question, but before he finished his question, T. D. Lee already gave him the answer, drawing laughter from the audience. This happened with Martin frequently. He would have the answer before people finished asking their question.

Since Martin's office was just a few doors down the hallway from my office, we would often be heard discussing physics problems, sometime probably a little too loud. My neighbor would often either close his door with a bang to show his displeasure, or if that didn't work, would come to my office to ask us to lower our voices. I remember the last physics problem I discussed with Martin was whether the Van der Waals or Casimir force between a Rb atom and the cell wall can flip the spin of the Rb atom.

Martin was a very cultured person, a quintessential Viennese gentleman. I was impressed not only by the breadth of his knowledge of physics, but also by the breadth of his knowledge of other subjects. For example he was very well-versed in history. I remember once we had a good laugh when we realized that we were thinking of the same story - the story of the sword of Damocles. Martin's love of classical music served as another bond between us. Martin was a person of great integrity. He could not tolerate any fraud or dishonesty.

I consider myself to be extremely fortunate to have had Martin as my colleague for the last 12 years. We had a very fruitful collaboration. Cicero said, “Itaque adulescentes mihi mori sic videntur, ut cum aquae multitudine flammae vis opprimitur” (When the young die I am reminded of a strong flame extinguished by a torrent). The flame of Martin was burning brilliantly when it was extinguished by a torrent. He died too young. I sought solace for my sorrow in what Seneca said to Lucilius to console him for the loss of his friend Flaccus: “Et fortasse, si modo vera sapientium fama est recipitque nos locus aliquis, quem putamus perisse, praemissus est” (Perhaps, if only the tale told by wise men is true and there is a bourne to welcome us, then he whom we think we have lost has only been sent on ahead). Martin will be greatly missed by me as a brilliant physicist, a person of great integrity, and a truly wonderful colleague and friend.

Research: My research in quantum field theory and atomic physics ranges from non-perturbative aspects of QuantumChromoDynamics (QCD) and semiclassical studies of Casimir effects to the quantitative theoretical description of magnetic resonance experiments in atomic physics. My current research is at the interface of classical and quantum physics with particular emphasis on the following topics.

  • Gauge-fixing as a Topological Quantum Field Theory.
    I proved that the Neuberger- and Gribov- Problems in the gauge fixing of non-abelian gauge theories are related to the Euler characteristic of the gauge group manifold[31,32]. One can partially gauge fix a non-abelian lattice gauge theory to a physically equivalent abelian LGT with the Cartan subgroup as structure group by an equivariant Topological (Lattice) Field Theory of Witten type[37]. Recent progress suggests that one can also localize the remaining compact abelian group up to singular points. It is unclear whether these singularities give important non-perturbative effects.
  • Perturbation theory of SU(N) gauge theory near the Hagedorn transition for large N.
    It was shown that planar diagrams give subleading contributions to the free energy of an SU(N)-gauge theory at large N if one perturbs about a center-symmetric ground state[51]. The confining phase of SU(N) gauge theory may be superheated beyond the first order deconfinement temperature up to a Hagedorn temperature[52,55]. I am investigating a perturbative expansion that is valid on the confining side of this second order Hagedorn transition.
  • Semiclassical and numerical calculation of Casimir effects.
    Progress in the understanding of the renormalization of vacuum energies[53,60] has allowed us to study Casimir effects numerically[62] and in semiclassical approximation[35,40,45,53]. Extensions of the scalar methods to the physically more interesting electromagnetic case[56,67] with realistic materials are currently being investigated. I recently proved [68,69] finiteness of irreducible N-body Casimir energies. With the graduate student Hua Yao Wu I developed a field-theoretic approach to roughness corrections. This research is supported by the National Science Foundation with Grant No: PHY-09-02054. The Grant also supports the postdoctoral work of Dr. K.V. Shajesh.
  • Semiclassical vacuum effects due to black holes and the size of the universe.
    The formation of a black hole from an unstable dust cloud changes the spectrum of the Laplace-Beltrami operator and, in the absence of supersymmetry, changes the quantum vacuum energy of massless fields. This semiclassical contribution to the total mass is significant for miniature black holes of approximately Planck mass and may even stabilize them. Similarly, changes in the vacuum energy due to changes in the size of the universe cannot be absorbed in a (constant) cosmological constant and may have been significant just after the Big-Bang.
  • Edge enhancement and surface effects in magnetic resonance response.
    This is recent theoretical work in conjunction with experiments performed at Rutgers/Newark by the magnetometer group. The observed paramagnetic electron resonance lines of spin polarized Rb-vapor depend sensitively on a number of properties of the enclosing coated glass cells -- in particular on their dimensions and on gross properties of the coating. We developed a quantitative theoretical description [57, 58, 59, 63, 65] that allows the determination of important surface interaction parameters from the observed line shapes.