David Kagan, Ph. D.

Full Time LecturerPhoto for David Kagan.

  • Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Cambridge, UK (2007)
  • BA in mathematics and physics from Columbia University (2002)

Contact information

  • Send Email
  • Phone: 508.910.6604
  • Office: SENG-203E


Dr. David Kagan's fascination with the frontiers of physics was sparked early on by stories. Through Star Wars, Star Trek, and Doctor Who to A Wrinkle in Time, he was inspired to ask questions about the nature of space, time, and the possibilities of dimensions beyond the ones we observe in our day-to-day lives. Reading Carl Sagan's beautiful book, "Cosmos" and Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" deepened his desire to understand physics and the picture it paints of our universe. He earned undergraduate degrees in math and physics from Columbia University in New York City. During that time, he developed a strong interest in string theory---a promising approach to reconciling Einstein's theory of general relativity---our best theory of the structure of space and time---and quantum theory, the theory that governs the universe at its most microscopic scales. David pursued further research and study, earning a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from the University of Cambridge in the UK with the support of Columbia University's Kellet Fellowship and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

As a postdoctoral member of Dr. Brian Greene's string theory group (ISCAP) at Columbia University, David's main line of research explored compactification: a technique for deriving four dimensional spacetime from the 10 dimensions of string theory. There are a huge number of possible ways to compactify or shrink string theory's extra dimensions, and David's research examined the stability of certain standard schemes for doing so.

While at Columbia, David's postdoctoral position was also a member of the team developing and teaching Columbia's new Core science course, Frontiers of Science. The course was an exciting exploration of cutting edge topics in various scientific disciplines. It introduced students to key methods of critical thinking and scientific habits of mind.

Here at UMass-Dartmouth, David continues to explore string theory, as well as deeper aspects of quantum theory. Quantum theory is simultaneously the most precise and well-tested physical theory ever devised, as well as the most mysterious. While the mathematics of quantum theory is unambiguous in its predictions, the underlying meaning of the mathematics is obscure. Recently, David and his collaborator Dr. Jacob Barandes at Harvard University have developed a new framework---the Minimal Modal Interpretation---for thinking about the underlying reality that quantum theory describes.

David is also deeply involved in curriculum development and teaching the introductory physics sequence for physics majors and engineering students alike. He also enjoys teaching upper-level courses in string theory, black holes, particle physics, and theoretical methods for physicists. Interacting with students is one of the great joys of this line of work.

Areas of interest

  • Quantum gravity
  • String theory
  • Foundations of quantum theory