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Last modified: Thursday, March 19, 2009

Steven A. Gottlieb

Distinguished Professor

Professor of Physics
Department of Physics
College of Arts and Sciences
University Graduate School
Indiana University Bloomington
Appointed to IU faculty, 1985
A.B., Cornell University, 1973
M.A., Princeton University, 1975
Ph.D., Princeton University, 1978

When Steven Gottlieb was a doctoral student in physics at Princeton University, Professor David Gross recognized his potential to be a leading physicist.

"At one point in graduate school Steve was having a hard time with some of his calculations," said Gross, a 2004 Nobel Laureate and the director and Frederick W. Gluck Chair in Theoretical Physics at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "I told him, 'If it can be calculated, you will calculate it.'

Steven A. Gottlieb

Steven A. Gottlieb

Print-Quality Photo

"Since that time, Steve has amply justified my confidence in him. He has taken one of the toughest problems, understanding Nature's strongest force, and done world-leading calculations that will get even better in the coming years."

The force to which Gross refers is the strong interaction, which binds quarks together to form protons, neutrons and other composite particles and also binds protons and neutrons together in nuclei. One of the four fundamental forces of nature, the strong interaction profoundly affects all of physics, yet its behavior has proven extremely difficult to calculate.

Steven Gottlieb's work has been critical to understanding the strong interaction. He is one of the world's foremost authorities on quantum chromodynamics (QCD) -- the theory of the strong interaction -- and, in particular, lattice QCD, in which space and time are broken up into a grid and computers perform complex calculations at each grid point. IU Bloomington Professor of Physics James Musser said that Gottlieb is "a driving force behind the revolution currently taking place in our understanding of the strong interaction."

Gottlieb's numerous contributions to lattice QCD include a widely used algorithm for the simulation of quantum chromodynamics that he and his collaborators developed. And in 2004, he co-authored an article entitled "High-Precision Lattice QCD Confronts Experiment," which showed that lattice QCD could accurately predict the properties of composite particles. The article is "a milestone paper indicating the 'coming of age' of lattice gauge theory," said Rick Van Kooten, chair and professor in IU Bloomington's Department of Physics.

Like the strong interaction, Gottlieb has served as a binding force in the lattice QCD community. He co-founded the MILC collaboration -- one of the world's leading lattice gauge theory research groups -- and has generously shared his ideas, expertise and computer code with scientists and research groups worldwide.

"In every project in which we have both participated, Professor Gottlieb has been an intellectual leader of all phases of the work: choosing the problem, selecting the approach for solving it, developing the software, collecting the data and extracting physics from it," said Robert L. Sugar, professor of physics at UC Santa Barbara and co-founder of the MILC collaboration. "He deserves a very great share of the credit for the successes of all of the collaborations in which we have worked."

Gottlieb is one of the principal authors of the MILC code for lattice gauge theory calculations and a sought-after advisor on supercomputing. He chaired the Oversight Committee of the National Lattice Gauge Theory Infrastructure Project from 2001 to 2006, and he is a member of the Change Control Board for the U.S. Department of Energy's Lattice QCD Computing Project. "Through these activities, Steve is having a broad impact not only on the lattice QCD community, but on the broader computational science community," Musser says.

An American Physical Society Fellow, Gottlieb has co-authored more than 215 publications, and he received the IU Outstanding Young Faculty Award in 1989. Gottlieb has held visiting positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brookhaven National Laboratory, and he was a Frontier Fellow at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. He has served two terms as divisional associate editor for Physical Review Letters, and he is currently an editorial board member and associate editor in chief of Computers in Science and Engineering.

"For all his accomplishments, I believe that Professor Gottlieb's best work is still to come," said Chris Quigg, a theoretical physicist at Fermilab. "He has done work of lasting significance, and the investment that he and his collaborators have made promises more important results -- and much new insight -- over the next decade."