Robbert Dijkgraaf Appointed Director of Institute for Advanced Study

Robbert Dijkgraaf, photograph by Henk Thomas

Robbert Dijkgraaf, a distinguished mathematical physicist who has made significant contributions to string theory and the advancement of science education, has been appointed Director of the Institute for Advanced Study with effect from July 1, 2012. Dijkgraaf, currently President of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and Distinguished University Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Amsterdam, will succeed Peter Goddard, who has served as Director since January 2004. Dijkgraaf will be the ninth Director of the Institute, an independent, academic institution that is one of the world’s leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. Founded in 1930 in Princeton, New Jersey, the Institute exists to encourage and support fundamental research in the sciences and humanities—the original, often speculative, thinking that produces advances in knowledge that change the way we understand the world.

Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation of New York and a Trustee of the Institute who served as Chair of the Search Committee, stated, “We live in a world in which the impact and influence of science knows no boundaries, nor should they. Testament to this fact is the selection of Robbert Dijkgraaf as the new Director of the Institute. His appointment reflects the international nature of science and knowledge in our increasingly complex and interconnected global community. His rigorous intellect, matchless talent as a scientist, thinker and teacher, along with the depth and breadth of his experience as an institutional administrator, make him an outstanding choice to lead the Institute. We are delighted that Dijkgraaf’s appointment comes with the unanimous and enthusiastic endorsement of the Search Committee and the Board.”

Charles Simonyi, Chairman and Chief Technology Officer of Intentional Software Corporation and Chairman of the Institute’s Board of Trustees, added, “The Board of Trustees is honored and delighted that Dr. Dijkgraaf has accepted our invitation to join as the next Director of the Institute. This is a great moment not only for the Institute and its Faculty but also for the international community of scholars who take part in the curiosity-driven research pursued at IAS. We look forward to the continuation of the brilliant tradition of directorships since the founding of the Institute in 1930.”

In addition to Gregorian, Search Committee members included Institute Trustees John S. Hendricks, Founder and Chairman of Discovery Communications; Harold T. Shapiro, President Emeritus and Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University; and Shelby White, noted philanthropist and Trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation. Institute Faculty members who served on the Committee were Nicola Di Cosmo, Luce Foundation Professor in East Asian Studies in the School of Historical Studies; Robert MacPherson, Hermann Weyl Professor in the School of Mathematics; Joan Wallach Scott, Harold F. Linder Professor in the School of Social Science; and Edward Witten, Charles Simonyi Professor in the School of Natural Sciences. Witten said of the appointment, “Robbert Dijkgraaf is a mathematical physicist of great distinction. He has made many outstanding contributions to our understanding of quantum fields and strings and their relations to problems of gauge theory, geometry and quantum black holes. Since his early years at the Institute when he and I collaborated, I have always looked forward to his papers. He is a leader in both science and public policy, and it will be great to have him leading the Institute.”

“Robbert Dijkgraaf’s distinguished achievements as a scientist, administrator, communicator and advocate for science and the arts make him an absolutely outstanding choice for Director of the IAS,” stated Peter Goddard, who will remain at the Institute as a Professor in the School of Natural Sciences after he steps down as Director on June 30, 2012. “I am certain that the Institute will flourish under his leadership.”

Dijkgraaf stated about his appointment as Director, “I am delighted to have this opportunity to return to the Institute—a magical, transformative place that has played a crucial role in my professional life. As one of the intellectual centers of the world, the IAS is a beacon for curiosity-driven research across the globe. The Institute is truly blessed with a wonderful, inspiring Faculty, a dedicated Staff, and a generous and understanding Board of Trustees. It is a great honor to follow in the footsteps of a remarkable line of Directors. I am looking forward to renewing old friendships and building many new ones.”

Dijkgraaf is regarded as one of the world’s leading mathematical physicists, and his work has had a major impact on the development of string theory and quantum field theory. A former Member (1991–92) and visitor in the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute, Dijkgraaf has found surprising and deep connections between matrix models, string theory, topological string theory and supersymmetric quantum field theory. He also developed precise formulas for the counting of bound states of strings and branes that explain the entropy of certain black holes. In recognition of his significant contributions to string theory, Dijkgraaf was awarded the Spinoza Prize, the highest scientific award in the Netherlands, in 2003. He is the first recipient of the award whose adviser, Gerard ‘t Hooft, the 1999 Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics and frequent visitor since the 1970s to the Institute’s School of Natural Sciences, is also a recipient. Dijkgraaf’s work was acknowledged with the Physica Prize of the Dutch Physical Society in 2002.

Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and Master of Trinity College at the University of Cambridge, and a Trustee of the Institute, noted of Dijkgraaf, “Robbert Dijkgraaf is an outstanding theoretical physicist, a respected ambassador for science and education and a wise and influential contributor to public policy. His distinction, experience and personality render him ideally qualified to lead the Institute into an era of even wider international excellence.”

Ralph J. Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences, added, “Robbert Dijkgraaf is a world-class scientist who brings mathematical rigor, great energy and humanity to every one of his many activities. He is greatly admired for his own original research and for his contributions to science education. Simultaneously, he is a great leader of organizations who displays genuine interest in learning what other people are doing.”

“Robbert Dijkgraaf is an inspired choice for Director of IAS,” stated Isadore Singer, Emeritus Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “His research in physics, his ability to explain science to others, his broad interests and his personal presence ensure his effective leadership as Director of IAS.”

James H. Simons, Chairman of the Board of Renaissance Technologies LLC, President of Euclidean Capital LLC and Vice Chairman of the Institute’s Board of Trustees, said of the appointment, “I can’t imagine a person more fit to lead the Institute for Advanced Study than Robbert Dijkgraaf. He is both an outstanding physicist and an excellent leader with a broad interest in public awareness of science. The appointment will have a positive impact both on the Institute and on the nation at large.”

“Robbert Dijkgraaf is a marvelous scientist and talented administrator with a global perspective that will serve the Institute well. The Institute and wider Princeton communities will be enriched by Dijkgraaf's charismatic presence and broad interests. He is a superb choice to lead the Institute,” stated Phillip A. Griffiths, Professor Emeritus in the Institute’s School of Mathematics and former Director of the Institute (1991–2003).

Martin L. Leibowitz, Managing Director of Morgan Stanley and Vice Chairman of the Institute’s Board of Trustees and President of the Corporation, stated, “The IAS is an exceptional institution with a unique research and mentoring mission. As our trustee Vartan Gregorian once put it, the IAS is the “university to universities.” The Director's role calls for an individual who has made truly great contributions to his or her field of specialization and who also has broad interests that span the full spectrum of activities pursued at IAS. We are indeed fortunate to have such an outstanding, multi-faceted scholar as Robbert Dijkgraaf joining us as Director in July 2012.”

About Robbert Dijkgraaf

Dijkgraaf, who will continue as Distinguished University Professor at the University of Amsterdam after becoming Director of the Institute, was born in Ridderkerk in the Netherlands in 1960. He earned a B.Sc. (1982), an M.Sc. (1986), and a Ph.D. (1989) in Theoretical Physics from Utrecht University, and also studied painting at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam in 1982–84. Dijkgraaf was a Research Associate in the Physics Department at Princeton University from 1989–91, and then was a Member in the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute from 1991–92. He served as Professor of Mathematical Physics at the Korteweg-de Vries Institute for Mathematics at the University of Amsterdam from 1992–2004, and currently is Distinguished University Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Amsterdam, a position he has held since 2005. Dijkgraaf was elected President of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008. The Academy, founded in 1808 as an advisory body to the Dutch government, promotes quality in science and scholarship and strives to ensure that Dutch scholars and scientists contribute to cultural, social and economic progress. It is also responsible for 18 national research institutes. Dijkgraaf serves as the Co-Chair of the InterAcademy Council, the research council of the science academies of the world, which provides reporting and advisement on global scientific, technological and health issues to governments and international organizations, and recently reviewed the management and procedures of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the request of the United Nations Secretary-General.

Dijkgraaf is a Member of Academia Europaea and the Koninklijke Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen, and serves on the editorial boards of Nuclear Physics B, Journal of Differential Geometry, Communications in Number Theory and Physics, and others. He serves on many international advisory boards, including the Governing Board of the School of Theoretical Physics at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Study, the International Advisory Committee of the Center for Advanced Mathematical Sciences at the American University of Beirut, the Scientific Committee for Physics, International Solvay Institutes in Belgium, and the International Advisory Committee of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Beijing.

Dijkgraaf is an active proponent of the sciences who frequently appears on Dutch national television and has a monthly column in the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad. He conceived and launched a website for children,, in an effort to cultivate and sustain an understanding and involvement in the sciences, and his popular books include Blikwisselingen (2008), Bètacanon (2009) and Bètacanon Junior (2010). Commenting on Dijkgraaf’s work to advance science, Bruce Alberts, Editor-in-Chief of Science magazine and President Emeritus of the National Academy of Sciences, said, “I am enormously pleased that Robbert has been selected as the next Director of the Institute for Advanced Study. He has demonstrated great leadership in his present roles as President of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and as Co-Chair of the InterAcademy Council of the world’s science academies. Importantly, Robbert is not only an outstanding theoretical physicist, but also a charismatic and idealistic human being. He has set a wonderful example for other scientists by dedicating a large amount of effort to communicating science to the public and to cultivating the next generation of scientists through science education at all levels. Hopefully, his new position will enable him to reach an even wider audience around the world.”

Dijkgraaf and his wife, author Pia de Jong, have three children. De Jong’s critically acclaimed 2008 debut novel, Lange Dagen (Long Days), received the 2008 Golden Owl Literature Readers Prize, and established de Jong as one of the leading voices in fiction in the Netherlands. Her most recent novel, Dieptevrees (Depth Fear), published in 2010, has been widely praised by the press for its strong, elegant prose. She writes a weekly column in the newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad.

About the Institute for Advanced Study

The Institute, founded in 1930, is a private, independent academic institution located in Princeton, New Jersey. Its more than 6,000 former Members hold positions of intellectual and scientific leadership throughout the academic world. Some 27 Nobel Laureates and 38 out of 52 Fields Medalists have been Institute Faculty, Members or Visitors. Many winners of the Wolf and MacArthur prizes have also been affiliated with the Institute. Work at the Institute takes place in four Schools: Historical Studies, Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Social Science. It provides for the mentoring of scholars by a permanent Faculty of no more than 28, and it offers all who work there the freedom to undertake research that will make significant contributions in any of the broad range of fields in the sciences and humanities studied at the Institute.



Quotes about Robbert Dijkgraaf

Curtis Callan, James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Physics, and Chair, Department of Physics, Princeton University, and Trustee of the Institute for Advanced Study:
Robbert Dijkgraaf is a brilliant choice for the IAS directorship. In addition to being a leading theoretical and mathematical physicist, he is a scientific statesman with worldwide recognition. I have known him for 25 years, and I can add that he is a wonderfully warm and cultured individual, ideally suited to lead an institution with the IAS’s broad scholarly mandate. We are incredibly fortunate to have been able to recruit him.

Nicola Di Cosmo, Henry Luce Professor in East Asian Studies, School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study:
I see in Robbert Dijkgraaf a dynamic, creative, and forward-looking scientist who understands intimately the mission of the Institute, has a strong commitment to the universal quest for knowledge that the Institute stands for, and has the passion to inspire scholars in all fields. He combines administrative experience at the highest levels with science research at the highest levels, and I am fully confident that under his Directorship the Institute will continue to thrive in every way.

David Gross, Director and holder of the Frederick W. Gluck Chair in Theoretical Physics at the Kalvi Institute for Theoretical Physics, Nobel Laureate in Physics, 2004:
An accomplished physicist and an inspiring scientific statesman, Robbert Dijkgraaf is a magnificent choice as Director of the IAS.

John S. Hendricks, Founder and Chairman of Discovery Communications, and Trustee of the Institute for Advanced Study:
The continued leading role of the Institute for Advanced Study in increasing the knowledge of humanity is assured with the appointment of Dr. Robbert Dijkgraaf as Director. Dr. Dijkgraaf’s distinguished contributions in the fields of mathematical physics and string theory are matched by his inspiring passion for communicating the critical value of science to society. With Dr. Dijkgraaf’s appointment, it is clear that the Institute will continue its tradition of achieving breakthroughs in curiosity-based research under the guidance of one of the world's great thought leaders.

Robert MacPherson, Hermann Weyl Professor, School of Mathematics, Institute for Advanced Study:
Robbert Dijkgraaf is an international public intellectual. Our second Director recruited from abroad, he exemplifies the international nature of the Institute for Advanced Study. I think he will be very effective in elucidating the mission of the Institute to the public, and also in advocating case for scholarship in general as a valuable activity.

Joan Wallach Scott, Harold F. Linder Professor, School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study:
Robbert Dijkgraaf is a terrific appointment for the IAS. He’s a top scientist with broad humanistic training and experience who knows the Institute well and admires its best aspects. He’ll be an outstanding leader for the faculty and an advocate for the Institute nationally and internationally.

Harold T. Shapiro, President Emeritus and Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University, and Trustee of the Institute for Advanced Study:
Professor Dijkgraaf is an extraordinary figure with an international reputation as a physicist, as a thought leader in science policy, and in the distinguished leadership of scientific institutions. His leadership of the Netherlands Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences and his ability to effectively mobilize the heads of the National Academies around the world through the InterAcademy Council, has demonstrated his ability to bring together scholars from a wide variety of disciplines to deal effectively with important scientific and critical public policy issues. He is a worthy successor to Peter Goddard who has provided such memorable leadership to the Institute over the last decade. He is sure to play a distinguished role in enhancing the work of the Institute. Finally, it will be a special pleasure to welcome his family to the Princeton community.

Shelby White, Trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation, noted philanthropist, and Trustee of the Institute for Advanced Study:
Robbert Dijkgraaf joins a long line of distinguished scholars who have worked at the Institute, including such luminaries as Albert Einstein, John von Neumann, and Robert Oppenheimer. He brings a reputation not only as a premier research scientist and administrator but also as a dedicated advocate of fostering and promoting a greater public awareness of science.