Marvin L. Cohen Research Group

Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics and Nanoscience
Marvin L. Cohen Research Group


Department of Physics, University of California, Berkeley  |  Materials Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Our research group is focused on theoretical condensed matter physics and nanoscience working in the Department of Physics of the University of California, Berkeley and the Materials Science Division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

GOAL: The primary goal of our research is to understand and predict properties of materials at the most fundamental level using atomistic first principles (i.e. “ab initio”) quantum-mechanical calculations. A variety of different theoretical formalisms and computational approaches are used that require only the atomic number, atomic mass, and positions of the constituent atoms in a given material as input. These first principles methods have, in the past, resulted in excellent quantitative agreement with experimental measurements of material properties and theoretical results which have predicted with excellent accuracy the existence of new materials and new materials properties that were later verified experimentally

SUBJECT AREA AND TECHNIQUES: We are involved in research on a variety of subjects in condensed matter physics. Because of the breadth of this field, it is important to expose our researchers to a wide spectrum of problems and theoretical methods. A broad view is also important because new breakthroughs occur in different subareas of this field. The research projects are chosen because of their inherent scientific importance. We are sometimes working directly with experimentalists and at other times developing new formalisms and techniques to understand or solve problems. We are often trying to predict the existence of new materials and attempting to explain or predict new properties of condensed matter systems. This often requires new physical insights and new theoretical approaches.

MATERIAL SYSTEMS AND PHENOMENA: Our research covers a broad range of materials, from three, to two, and even one-dimensional material systems which can be metals, semimetals, semiconductors, or insulators. We also study systems of finite size, such as clusters and other nanostructures. The phenomena of interest include electronic structure, structural and optical properties, transport, superconductivity, magnetism, the special behaviors of nanostructures, topological properties, pressure and temperature effects, etc. Considerable emphasis is placed on the study of the role of many-particle effects in determining experimentally observed properties.

For more details, please see our list of Publications.

For background material, please refer to the following text.

Prof. Marvin L. Cohen and Prof. Steven G. Louie

Fundamentals of Condensed Matter Physics

Prof. Marvin L. Cohen and Prof. Steven G. Louie

Based on an established course and covering the fundamentals, central areas and contemporary topics of this diverse field, “Fundamentals of Condensed Matter Physics” is a valuable textbook for graduate students and researchers. The book begins with an introduction to the modern conceptual models of a solid from the points of view of interacting atoms and also elementary excitations. It then provides a thorough grounding in electronic structure and many-body interactions as a starting point to understand many properties of condensed matter systems – electronic, structural, vibrational, thermal, optical, transport, topological, magnetic, and superconducting- and the methods to calculate them. Taking readers through the concepts and techniques, the text gives both theoretically and experimentally inclined physical scientists the knowledge needed for research and teaching careers in this field. It features 246 illustrations, 9 tables and 100 homework problems, as well as numerous worked examples, for students to test their understanding. Solutions to the problems for instructors are available at

Cohen Legacy Interview Video