Theoretical physics aims to describe our physical reality by mathematics. The strength of this research area is in part based on the unity of methods employed for a wide range of applications, ranging from the largest scales of the universe to its smallest. This unity manifests itself both in scientific research and in academic education.

The Dutch Research School of Theoretical Physics (DRSTP) was established in 1993 to structure and coordinate the graduate education in theoretical physics. The school is a cooperation between the theoretical physics groups of six Dutch universities: University of Amsterdam (UvA), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VUA), University of Groningen (RUG), Leiden University (UL), Radboud University Nijmegen (RU), Utrecht University (UU) (commissioner) and of the National Institute for Subatomic Physics (Nikhef). In addition, there are several associate members.



The Dutch Research School of Theoretical Physics (DRSTP) is a cooperation between the theoretical physics groups of six Dutch universities and of the National Institute for Subatomic Physics (Nikhef) with the following purpose:

  • to implement a joint program of graduate education in theoretical physics that draws upon a dynamic research environment;
  • to maintain and strengthen research in theoretical physics from a broad unifying perspective that exploits the interrelationships between different fields of theory;
  • to strengthen, both in research and graduate education, connections with experimental physics, and other disciplines such as mathematics, computational science, astrophysics, earth science, physical chemistry and the life sciences.

The DRSTP is based on the conviction that a joint venture of all the moderately sized local theory groups, each with its own profile, offers added value for the achievement of these objectives. The DRSTP represents a sizable part of the national activity in theoretical physics, a field that has a strong tradition in the Netherlands. At present there exists no other organization that represents this field of research at the national level. The DRSTP welcomes further growth, for instance, by cooperation with institutions in neighbouring countries that share these goals. Often its educational activities already attract students from neighbouring countries and occasionally some of these activities are based on a close collaboration with partners abroad.


The Governing Board of the DRSTP, which consists of representatives of the partners, is responsible for undertaking any suitable initiative to further its goals. The Scientific Director of the DRSTP is responsible for implementing the overall policy on behalf of the Board and for coordinating the DRSTP activities. The mandate to carry out these tasks is based on an official agreement between the Boards of the participating partners. The agreement guarantees means for a six year period in terms of explicit staff commitments as well as graduate student positions. The DRSTP is assisted in its endeavor by an international Scientific Advisory Committee of distinguished scientists.


Theoretical physics is based on universal principles. New concepts often have a much wider validity than in the field in which they are discovered, and methods developed in one field are sometimes very useful in another. Hence theoretical physics is characterized by unity in diversity.
The research fields of the DRSTP are highly diverse, ranging from the physics at the very smallest length scales to the large scale structure of space and time, and from the study of building blocks of matter to the intricacies of the many-body physics of condensed matter, be it quantum matter, soft matter or bio-matter.
The methods employed in these various fields make up the universal language of theoretical physics: formalisms such as the renormalization group and quantum field theory, and various concepts of statistical, computational and mathematical physics are universally applied and establish cross-talk among the research fields.

The research areas covered by the DRSTP can be grouped into the following broad and overlapping themes:

  • Theme 1: Particle physics, cosmology, quantum gravity and string theory
  • Theme 2: Quantum matter, quantum information, soft condensed matter and biophysics

The specific content of the research program depends on the responsible project leaders, on their creativity as well as their initiative to obtain research funding from their home universities, the Dutch research councils of NWO, or from international sources such as European Union programs.
The research program is carried out under the responsibility of the Governing Board and the scientific director in accordance with the agreement. The Governing Board of the DRSTP safeguards the objectives of the Research School. It monitors the overall coherence and quality of the research program. The Board discusses periodically whether the program remains on the forefront of international developments. The Scientific Advisory Committee plays an essential role in these matters.
The DRSTP is also accountable to the faculties of the participating partners. Therefore it reports regularly on past and planned activities, both in research and graduate education, on the basis of information presented in its yearly reports.

Graduate program

The partners in the DRSTP offer a joint program of graduate education leading to a PhD. As part of the research training, under the supervision of a member scientist of the corresponding node, the Research School guarantees a wide range of educational opportunities for its PhD students. They consist of advanced courses, seminars and topical courses in the Netherlands, and international experience in the form of workshops, summer schools or extended research visits abroad.
The Governing Board of the DRSTP decides on admission and monitors the evaluation of progress with a prognosis of ultimate success after the first year. This takes place on the basis of an “agreement of education and guidance” between each individual PhD student and its supervisor(s), to be submitted to and approved by the Board upon admittance.
The Educational Board advises the Governing Board. It also assembles the content of the yearly program of regular activities. Standard advanced courses are published in a nationwide survey. Special PhD courses are offered within the DRSTP, in quantum field theory, statistical physics and in theoretical condensed matter physics, or result from joint efforts with other research schools.
The input of graduate students in the Research School takes place in the form of a PhD Student Council that meets regularly with the Scientific Director and the Chairman of the Governing Board and the Educational Board (which also has one student member).
Individual members of the DRSTP play a pivotal role in helping to organize many summer schools and workshops, in the Netherlands as well as abroad, and in serving as teachers in all the activities that the DRSTP undertakes by itself or in cooperation with others.

Other responsibilities

The responsibilities of the DRSTP include:

  • the promotion of a stimulating research environment in theoretical physics;
  • setting uniform standards of quality;
  • making educational supplements available tailored to individual research needs.

The Board also develops a wide range of activities in order to support an exciting research climate from fund-raising, e.g. for postdoctoral fellows, guest teachers or international mobility of DRSTP students, to the selection of visiting professors, for example on the Kramers (UU), Lorentz (UL) or Van der Waals (UvA) Chairs.