Robbert Dijkgraaf is Distinguished University Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Amsterdam and as a string theorist is one of the best physical and mathematical specialists in the world. A superb speaker who is known for his crystal clear descriptions of complex mathematical and physical concepts and who inspires listeners on all levels.
As well as being the current Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Amsterdam, Robbert Dijkgraaf is also President of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), which advise the Dutch government, and runs 18 national research institutes. In July 2012 Professor Dijkgraaf will become the new director of the prestigious Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey, the former home of Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and many other luminaries.
Robbert Dijkgraaf was born in Ridderkerk, the Netherlands, in 1960. He studied theoretical physics and mathematics in Utrecht, where (after an interlude studying painting) he obtained his Ph.D. cum laude under supervision of Gerard ’t Hooft in 1989. Subsequently he held positions at Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study. He is a member of a research group that works in string theory, quantum gravity, and the interface of mathematics and particle physics. He is also interested in creating more public awareness of mathematics and science, and bridging the gap with the arts and humanities.
He co-chairs the InterAcademy Council, the world-wide association of science academies based in Amsterdam, which provides guidance to governments and international organizations on matters of science and he sits on advisory boards at institutes in Dublin, Beirut, Belgium and Beijing.
He appears regularly on Dutch television and is a monthly columnist for the newspaper NRC Handelsblad. One of the missions that excites Dijkgraaf most in leading the Institute is in expanding the talent pool of young scholars in theoretical research and he feels it is important to reach out to areas, like the “global south” and Asia, in which the science culture is starting to blossom.
Dijkgraaf is a top researcher with a considerable international reputation. He provides original and profound contributions to both mathematics and theoretical physics. Dijkgraaf’s name is immortalised in two mathematical concepts: the Dijkgraaf-Witten invariants and the Witten-Dijkgraaf-Verlinde-Verlinde equations. String theorists use these concepts in their complex calculations. Together with Harvard professor Cumrun Vafa, Dijkgraaf has recently provided more mathematical contributions that enable string theory research to progress further.
He was the recipient of the 2001 Physica Prize of the Dutch Physical Society and the 2003 NWO Spinoza Prize, the highest scientific award in the Netherlands.