Robbert Dijkgraaf is Director and Leon Levy Professor of the Institute for Advanced Study (2012–current), one of the world’s foremost centers for curiosity-driven basic research, located in Princeton, New Jersey. In addition to directing the Institute, Dijkgraaf is a renowned scientist, an effective communicator and teacher, a leader in science policymaking, and a trained artist.
A prominent mathematical physicist, Dijkgraaf is an impassioned and eloquent advocate for pure scientific inquiry and the vital importance of encouraging creativity, imagination, and “out of the box” thinking. He offers a truly international perspective on science and policy having served as President (2014–17) of the InterAcademy Partnership, a consortium of more than 130 of the world’s national science academies, and Co-Chair (2009–17) of the InterAcademy Council, the global alliance of science academies advising the United Nations, the World Bank, and other international organizations.
Considered the voice of science in his native Netherlands, where he served as President of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences from 2008–12, Dijkgraaf is a best-selling author of books for a general audience, appears frequently on television—including annual live events that attract more than a million viewers—and writes monthly for the Netherlands’ top newspaper, NRC Handelsblad. A trained visual artist, a skilled moderator, and a dynamic spokesperson, Dijkgraaf is equally comfortable describing the wonders of nature and the connections between humanities and science as he is articulating issues of societal import.
Dijkgraaf is most recently the author of The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge, published in 2017 by Princeton University Press, in which he and IAS founding Director Abraham Flexner articulate how essential basic research and original thinking are to innovation and societal progress, a belief that has informed the mission of the Institute for nearly ninety years.
As a scientist, Dijkgraaf has made significant contributions to string theory. His research focuses on the interface between mathematics and particle physics. In addition to finding surprising and deep connections between matrix models, topological string theory, and supersymmetric quantum field theory, Dijkgraaf has developed precise formulas for the counting of bound states that explain the entropy of certain black holes. For his contributions to science, Dijkgraaf was awarded the Spinoza Prize, the highest scientific award in the Netherlands, in 2003. He was named a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion in 2012. Dijkgraaf has been conferred honorary doctorates from Leiden University, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, and Radboud University Nijmegen and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts.