McLaughlin, David W.

David W. McLaughlin

Professor of Mathematics, Neural Science; Provost, New York University

Dr. McLaughlin received a B.S from Creighton University, which honored him in 2010 with its Alumni Merit Award.  He received an M.S. from Indiana University, and a Ph.D. in Physics from Indiana University.  He also served as Director of the Courant Institute from 1994 to 2002. Since 2002, Professor McLaughlin is the Provost of New York University.  In this capacity, he serves as the chief academic officer of the University, who is responsible for setting the University's academic strategy and academic priorities, allocating financial resources in accordance with academic priorities, and overseeing the schools and all academic support units.

Professor McLaughlin is an applied mathematician, whose recent work in visual neural science focuses upon computational models of the primary visual cortex. He began his work in the area of integrable systems. Among his celebrated accomplishments was his 1973 paper, “The Soliton – A New Concept in Applied Sciences,” (with Al Scott and Frank Chu), which provided explicit formulae for solitons (self-reinforcing solitary waves) for essentially all the integrable systems known at the time. The article was recognized five years later by Citation Index as a “Citation Classic.” His 1978 research (also with Al Scott) on the “Perturbation analysis of fluxon dynamics” was one of the very first papers to use the full integrable structure (of the SineGordon equation in this case) to analyze a concrete physical problem.

From integrable systems, McLaughlin moved into the world of dynamical systems and in particular the theory of weakly nonlinear dispersive waves.  His work focused on coherent structures and wave turbulence.  These dispersive waves occur in a variety of physical systems such as nonlinear optics, atmosphere and the ocean waves as well as plasmas.  McLaughlin’s research on nonlinear dispersive wave equations was from the point of view of infinite dimensional dynamical systems where he showed the existence of solitary waves, the generation and propagation of oscillations, the persistence of homoclinic orbits, the existence of temporally chaotic waves and dispersive turbulence and the propagation of spatiotemporal chaos.

More recently McLaughlin’s research has turned to the field of visual neuroscience and perception in which he has made remarkable contributions. He began a long collaboration with Robert Shapley on the dynamics of the visual cortex, and helped to design and analyze some of the first large-scale neuronal network models that instantiated realistic cortical circuitry and modeling of thalamic input. Dave has developed coarse-grained descriptions of functional networks, investigated the nature of long-range connectivity, and studied many aspects of fluctuations and noisiness in neuronal activity and he has applied these tools to help understand the neural basis of visual illusions.

A distinguished scholar in his field and the author of over 114 publications, McLaughlin is a Member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.