Mathematics and Theoretical Physics Group

This is an IOP special interest group, which is a community of IOP members focused on a particular discipline, application or area of interest. Special interest groups allow members to connect and share knowledge and ideas. The IOP funds groups to deliver a range of activities including events, prizes and bursaries. All of our groups are driven by members.

About the group

Mathematical and theoretical physics is the use of mathematics to solve physical problems. In its widest sense, mathematical and theoretical physics falls between two major disciplines. 

As a special interest, member-driven group, we consider the development of interdisciplinary activity in branches of mathematical physics. This includes:

  • general relativity
  • quantum field theory
  • statistical mechanics

What the group does

We maintain a high profile for the subject with:

  • funding bodies
  • influential groups
  • the Institute of Physics 
  • the physics community

Some areas of focus include:

  • graph theory
  • group theory
  • functional integration
  • solutions of non-linear equations
  • differential geometry and topology
  • functional analysis and measure theory

Application of mathematics is particularly relevant to:

  • nuclear physics
  • statistical physics
  • classical dynamics
  • quantum computing
  • quantum field theory
  • other emerging areas
  • relativity and gravitation
  • physics of continuous media

We collaborate with other groups and divisions in areas of common interest like:

  • computational physics
  • condensed matter physics
  • high energy particle physics

We also have relationships with other organisations like the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications. 

Would you like to join this group?

Group physics prizes and competitions

Institute of Physics Mathematical and Theoretical Physics Group Essay Competition 2018 

The competition is open to all including:

  • groups
  • individuals 
  • non-members
  • Institute members

There are two categories: 

  • entrants in secondary education
  • entrants studying for a degree

We launched the essay competition in 2018. 

Essays should be:

  • original
  • no more than 2000 words
  • imaginative and exploratory
  • written in an accessible style
  • on a subject of the author’s choice
  • on any aspect of mathematical or theoretical physics
  • purely scientific in content or take a broader perspective

Send a short biography of the author(s) with your entry. This should include:

  • current education level 
  • a few sentences on why you are interested in mathematical or theoretical physics 

Collaborative entries are welcome if all contributing authors are clearly identified in the entry and biographies.


The prizes awarded in both categories are:

£100 for the winner
£50 for the runner up 

The prizes include certificates from the Institute. 

Winning essays are considered for publication on our website. 

Entries are judged on the quality of the writing and the content of the essay.

Essay topics that might be of interest to secondary school entrants:

  • Could we drive to the moon?
  • How do microwave ovens work?
  • How much empty space is there in the human body?
  • Could we build an elevator to the International Space Station?
  • If we can predict solar eclipses, why can't we predict the weather?

Essay topics that might be of interest to undergraduate level entrants:

  • Dark matter
  • Optical holograms
  • Gauge-gravity duality
  • GPS and general relativity
  • The thermodynamics of a fridge
  • Chlorophyll and quantum mechanics
  • The standard model of particle physics
  • What does it mean to say that the universe 'began' at the big bang?
  • Compare the discovery of Neptune to the hunt for the planet Vulcan
  • The superintegrability of the Kepler problem and the hydrogen atom

More information


Group events

Find group events on our events portal.


December 2017 (PDF, 723KB)
November 2017 (PDF, 913KB)

Committee and contacts

If you can’t always access the internet, write to our Honorary Secretary to be added to a postal mailing list for paper copies of our news.

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