We study the largest numbers, the smallest particles, the youngest planets and the oldest galaxies. Leiden University has a centuries-old tradition in cutting edge research in mathematics and the physical sciences. Our astronomers, mathematicians, chemists and physicists study the largest numbers, the smallest particles, the youngest planets and the oldest galaxies. They do this out of a fundamental fascination with the unknown. But at the same time their fundamental and sometimes extremely technical work lays the foundation which underlies research into complex macro-systems, be it datasets or biological pathways.
Leiden mathematicians and scientists co-operate closely with researchers from other fields and institutions within and outside the University and Leiden University Medical Center, tackling research problems and huge data-sets in such areas as cancer research, drug discovery, cryptography and nanotechnology. In addition, traditional boundaries between disciplines themselves are fading, resulting in new research fields such as biophysics or astrochemistry.
Within the Fundamentals of Science research area, investing in state of the art technology development is a must. Technology development occurs in continuous interaction with research itself, and is often tailor-made for research problems. Leiden astronomers are prominently involved in the international development of new telescope facilities. Our physicists develop highly specialised measuring and visualising techniques such as Electron Spin Resonance or Scanning Probe Microscopy, in order to study protein folding or surface catalysis. This technological work is in itself fundamental research, for which a profound knowledge of - quantum - matter is needed.
Ewine van Dishoeck, Professor of Molecular Astrophysics and Spinoza laureate:
‘The strength of the Leiden Faculty of Science is that it excels not only within each of the traditional disciplines but that there are also many collaborations which have sprung up naturally across disciplines. My own research in astrochemistry is just one example, and at any time my group consists of a mix of students trained in astronomy, physics, chemistry and sometimes even biology. It is very stimulating and refreshing to look across traditional scientific boundaries, even though it takes some extra time and effort before everyone speaks the same scientific “language”.’