Experiments on instability, chaos, and turbulence, 2018
MIT Symposium on Chaos and Climate: celebrating the Science of Charney and Lorenz, Feb. 2, 2018 (22 min Talk)
Annual “Hands-on Research in Complex Systems School” (3 min Video)
Patterns & Waves in Rotating & Stratified Fluids, 2017 conference “Mechanical Instabilities in Solids and Fluids,” Jerusalem (
Universality in Nature:  2015 MIT C.C. Mei Distinguished Lecture (
Bacterial Dynamics: How Bacteria in Colonies Can Survive By Killing Siblings and Reversibly Changing Shape (88 min video of talk given at U. Michigan on 17 May 2012) ‘
Tips on Writing Papers (pdf)(video)
Chaos podcast: Michael Marder and Harry Swinney talk about chaos (omega-tau-119) ‘

Codes on Matlab File Exchange:


Sid Richardson Foundation Regents Chair, University of Texas at Austin (1990-)
Trull Centennial Professor, University of Texas at Austin (1984-90)
Professor, University of Texas at Austin (1978-84)
Professor, City College of CUNY (1978)
Associate Professor, City College of CUNY (1973-77)
Assistant Professor, New York University (1971-73)
Visiting Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University (1970-71)
Research Associate, Johns Hopkins University (1968-70)


Ph.D. (Physics)
Johns Hopkins University (1968)
B.S. with Honors (Physics)
Rhodes College (1961)


Boltzmann Medal, Commission on Statistical Physics of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, awarded at the triennial STATPHYS conference (24 July 2013)
Lewis Fry Richardson Medal, European Geosciences Union (2012)
Doctoral Degree “Honoris Causa”, University of Buenos Aires (2010)
Fellow, Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (2009)
Doctor Philosophiae Honoris Causa, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2008)
Jürgen Moser Award of the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (2007)
Honorary Doctor of Science degree, Rhodes College (2002)
Honorable Visitor, National Science Council of the Republic of China (2001)
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (1999)
Career Research Excellence Award, University of Texas at Austin (1997)
American Physical Society Fluid Dynamics Prize (1995)
Member, National Academy of Sciences (1992)
Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1991)
Inducted into Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars (1984)
John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (1983-84)
Morris Loeb Lecturer, Harvard University (1982)
Fellow, American Physical Society (1977)


My research as a graduate student and all my research since then has involved table top, conceptually simple experiments. In this style of research a graduate student can design and build the experiment and collect and interpret the data. The results can be compared with predictions of exisiting theory, or the student can develop a mathematical model to gain insight into the laboratory observations.

The problems that my students and I have studied since I came to the University of Texas in 1978 have concerned instabilities, chaos, pattern formation, and turbulence in systems driven away from equilibrium by the imposition of gradients in temperature, velocity, concentration, etc. We search for an understanding of dynamical behavior that is similar in diverse systems. Problems examined in the past two decades include chaos and pattern formation in flow between concentric rotating cylinders (the “Couette-Taylor” system); chaos and strange attractors in oscillating chemical reactions; a laboratory model of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot; a laboratory model of the atmospheric “blocking” phenomenon; turbulence in buoyancy driven convection; pattern formation in surface-tension-driven (“Marangoni”) convection; growth of metallic fractal clusters in electrodeposition; chemical patterns of the type predicted by Alan Turing in his 1952 paper “The Chemical Basis for Morphogenesis”; other patterns in chemical reaction-diffusion systems, including reactions that are periodically forced in time, where “Arnold tongue” type phase diagrams have been found; vertically oscillated containers of grains (sand, metallic particles, etc.), which exhibit square, stripe, hexagon, spiral, and oscillon (localized) patterns.

Our current research examines shock waves in supersonic sand; the determination of statistical properties of rapid granular flows, where the observations are compared to the predictions of kinetic theory and continuum theory; instabilities in fluidized beds, where a fluid flows upward through a granular bed, such as in a gasoline refinery catalytic cracker; formation of “viscous finger” patterns at the interface between immiscible fluids; buckling of thin sheets (plastic, leaves of plants); and scaling and transport in rapidly rotating turbulent flows, such as those in oceans and atmospheres.