Scott Pratt

Professor of Physics


Education and training

  • PhD, Theoretical Nuclear Physics, University of Minnesota, 1985


By colliding heavy ions, such as gold or lead nuclei, at high energies, extremely hot and dense environments are produced, with temperatures exceeding trillions of Kelvin. These environments recreate conditions of the big bang or the interiors of large stars, but with the caveat that the systems are only mesoscopic in size and last very short times (millionths of nanoseconds). At these temperatures, an exotic state of matter, the quark-gluon plasma (QGP) is produced, where quarks are no longer confined to specific particles, such as protons, but roam freely throughout the system instead. Experiments cannot directly probe such systems during the hottest and densest stage, as measurements are confined to the final outgoing momenta of particle emitted from the “mini-bangs”. Thus, modeling, theory and phenomenology play a critical role in extracting information from collisions. The Pratt group has played a critical role in developing theory, models, techniques, and statistical tools for such analysis. The Group is especially well known for developing the use of correlation measurements to unravel space-time information about the collisions' evolution along with constraints on the chemical evolution. This work has led to constraints on the equation of state, viscosity, diffusivity and chemical composition of nuclear matter under extreme conditions, including the QGP.


Scott Pratt hails from Kansas, and attended the University of Kansas as an undergraduate before his PhD work at the University of Minnesota. Before joining the faculty at MSU, he held positions at Texas A&M, the University of Tennessee, Oregon State University, Lund University in Sweden, the Niels Bohr Institute in Cophenhagen, the University of Wisconsin and Wayne State University.

In addition to the research described above, he loves teaching students. He has taught courses across the Physics curriculum, but with a concentration in graduate courses. This includes all four major topics: classical mechanics, electrodynamics, statis

How students can contribute as part of my research team

Much of the research involves numerical modeling, and students typically take ownership of a modeling project. Students are exposed to a wide range of relevant physics: hydrodynamics, field theory, scattering theory and statistical physics. Bayesian statistical analysis of large data sets with complex models is also applied. This style of research is appealing to students who want to learn, or even become expert, in a wide range of physics. Given that this is a relatively young field, there are still opportunities for students to develop and test new ideas and techniques.

Scientific publications