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Robbert Dijkgraaf

Professor Robbert Dijkgraaf has been University Professor at the UvA since 1 January 2005, enabling him to dedicate himself completely to his research on string theory and to develop new initiatives for involving young people in science.

Prof Robbert Dijkgraaf, University Prof and Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton USA
Photo: Andrea Kane Courtesy (IAS)

University Professors are expected to stimulate cross-disciplinary developments and also to contribute to a strong university profile. Robbert Dijkgraaf will be continuing on the course he started in 2003 when he won the Spinoza Prize for his mathematical contributions to string theory. With the money that comes with this most important of Dutch academic awards (1.5 million euros), he has reinforced his research group, developed appealing study material and involved secondary school pupils actively in his research group. As a teacher, and also as a speaker and author of opinion articles, Dijkgraaf will be making a particular effort to encourage and stimulate young people’s interest in physics.

Theory of everything

Dijkgraaf has been connected with the UvA since 1992, and is a top-class researcher with an outstanding international reputation. A group of young, very talented string theorists work under his supervision at the UvA. String theory is the most recent way of explaining the world and is considered the most likely candidate for a ‘theory of everything’, which tries to reconcile the gap between Einstein’s general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. String theory presupposes that, on the smallest possible scale, all material is made up of one-dimensional strings or mini-elastic bands that have no mass, with a length of about ten to the power of minus thirty-five metres. The vibrations of these strings may possibly describe the different sorts of elementary particles – the building blocks of our world – like the high tones of a violin string.

Robbert Dijkgraaf (1960) studied Theoretical Physics at the University of Utrecht. After a two-year ‘detour’ to the Gerrit Rietveld Academy of Art in Amsterdam, he graduated cum laude in theoretical physics in 1986, and obtained his doctorate cum laude in 1989 from former Spinoza and Nobel laureate Gerard ‘t Hooft. He then left for the United States to work as a researcher at Princeton University, the Mecca of string theory. Robbert Dijkgraaf has been attached as professor to Korteweg-de Vries Institute for Mathematics since 1992 and closely cooperates with the Institute for Theoretical Physics.


Robbert Dijkgraaf can be contacted by phone on +31 (0)20 525 2248 or via email: