David R. Nelson is the Arthur K. Solomon Professor of Biophysics and a professor of physics and applied physics at Harvard University. With his colleague Bertrand I. Halperin, he is responsible for a theory of two-dimensional melting that predicts a fourth, “hexatic” phase of matter, interposed between the usual solid and liquid phases. Much of Nelson’s recent research has focused on problems that bridge the gap between the physical and biological sciences, including genetic demixing in microorganisms, single molecule biophysics, and the structure of viruses.
Genetic drift, mutations, migrations, competition, and cooperation have played a crucial role in Earth’s evolutionary history, on both solid surfaces and in liquid environments. Nelson plans to study these effects using the tools of nonequilibrium statistical dynamics, population genetics, and probability theory. With range expansions in mind, he is exploring mutualistic competitions between microorganisms in solid environments in two and three dimensions, focusing on the effect of front undulations combined with inflationary dynamics.
Nelson is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Physical Society. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a junior and senior fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows, and a Sloan Research Fellow. Nelson is a recipient of Harvard University’s George Ledlie Prize, the John Bardeen Prize, a MacArthur Fellowship, the National Academy of Sciences Award for Initiatives in Research, and the Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Physics Prize. He received his PhD from Cornell University.