The research in mathematical physics lies on the boundary of theoretical physics and mathematics. The major aim is to understand the most fundamental aspects of quantum gravity and string theory, and the method employed is that of modern mathematics. While the conceptual reason for it is still mysterious, mathematics has been proven extremely effective in describing nature. Therefore the furthering of the mathematical understanding of our physical theory will be instrumental in solving the great mystery in fundamental physics. In recent years, the focus has been on the study the occurrence of a "moonshine phenomenon" – a relation between functions with special modular properties and interesting finite group such as the sporadic groups – in string theory compactifications. This intriguing relation points to deep connections between string theory and its algebraic structure, the physics of compactifications, unexpected symmetries and number theory. One of the long term goals is to get a better glimpse on the "landscape" of possible compactifications starting by studying the points with (highly quantum) enhanced symmetries.
This research is carried out in a joint programme with the Korteweg-de Vries Institute for Mathematics.