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About Alain Karma

My main research interest lies in theoretical understanding of the emergence of nonequilibrium patterns in nonlinear systems with applications to diverse problems in materials science and biology that are both of fundamental and practical relevance. This research makes extensive uses of mathematical models and computational approaches rooted in nonequilibrium statistical physics and nonlinear dynamics.
In the materials arena, a main focus in my group has been the application of the phase-field method to microstructural pattern formation in alloys. A more recent focus is the extension of this method to stress driven processes leading to materials failure such as crack propagation and crystal decohesion. In the biological arena, our efforts have focused on understanding basic mechanisms of "cardiac arrhythmias", a term commonly used to describe irregular heart rhythms. Of particular interest is ventricular fibrillation, a turbulent rhythm that stops the heart from pumping and is the leading cause of sudden death among industrialized nations. Our recent studies have focused on elucidating the origin of spatiotemporal patterns of period doubling oscillations of calcium and voltage signals in cardiac cells and tissue (networks of cardiac cells) that make the heart susceptible to the onset of life-threatening arrhythmias and fibrillation. This research has the potential to improve current means to identify high risk patients and to prevent cardiac fibrillation beyond the limitations of current therapies, either pharmacologically, or using low amplitude electrical stimuli as an alternative to a massive defibrillatory shock.


Present Distinguished Professor, Department of Physics, Northeastern University

Research Interests

Theoretical condensed matter physics and Biological physics

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Contact Information

111 Dana Research Center
Northeastern University
360 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115