Jinfeng Liao

Jinfeng Liao

Associate Professor, Physics


  • Ph.D., State University of New York at Stony Brook, 2008
  • M.S., Tsinghua University, 2004
  • B.S., Tsinghua University, 2001

Research interests

nuclear physics (theoretical)

About Jinfeng Liao

I am a theoretical nuclear physicist interested in studying the structures and properties of matter under extreme conditions --- the hottest, the densest, and/or the most strongly interacting matter that once filled the entire Universe that can now be explored by high energy collider experiments in the laboratory as well as by astrophysical observation of compact stars in the sky. These studies cover a wide range of topics in nuclear physics, particle physics, as well as many-body physics. Specifically I have recently been working on:

  1. the strongly interacting pre-equilibrium matter, at very early times during an ultra-relativistic heavy ion collision, and its thermalization during the-first-three-fermi (over c time) after the little bang
  2. the emergent topological degrees of freedom which are deemed responsible for quark confinement and are expected to dominate the structure of matter at strong coupling
  3. the topological effects and possibly symmetry-violating phenomenon that may be observable in experiments

Nuclear theory research

My research focuses on the theory of strong interaction (known as Quantum Chromo-Dynamics or QCD) and the phenomenology of high energy nuclear collisions. We study the structures and properties of matter under extreme conditions—the hottest, the densest, as well as the most strongly interacting matter. These studies cover a wide range of topics in nuclear physics, particle physics, as well as many-body physics.

Theoretical and experimental studies have suggested that the primordial state of matter in the baby Universe, reaching a temperature as high as about a trillion degrees, is a quark-gluon plasma (QGP). This exotic matter holds the key for understanding our cosmic origin and has now been re-created and measured in heavy ion collision experiments at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) in the USA as well as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in the Europe. We investigate the unusual properties of such extreme form of matter and explain highly novel quantum phenomena that emerge in this material. In doing so, we deepen our understanding of the basic theory of the nuclear force, namely the Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD).

Very recently we have found the collider-borne quark-gluon plasma to be a “subatomic swirl,” being the most vortical fluid and carrying a unprecedentedly strong magnetic field. This remarkable environment has allowed us to explore a number of particularly intriguing phenomena. One example is so-called Chiral Magnetic Effect (CME), a new type of quantum electricity. Another example is the idea of “fluid spintronics” in rotating matter. Both have spurred strong enthusiasm lately across various disciplines of physics.

Learn more about the Nuclear Theory Center