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School of Physics and Astronomy

Professor David Berman


Professor of Theoretical Physics

Telephone: 020 7882 5796
Room Number: G. O. Jones Building, Room 607


About Me

After graduating from Manchester I completed a PhD at Durham University. Following a couple of postdoctoral research positions in Holland and Israel, I became an advanced research fellow at the university of Cambridge. 


My work has been focussed around string theory and ideas in fundamental theoretical physics. This has included various geometric things like non-commutative goemtery and its extensions, black hole physics and quantum gravity. I am most known for something called exceptional geometry and its possible role in M-theory. Recently I have become interested in the interface between machine learning and ideas for machine learning from theoretical physics.


Apart from my reaserch work I have a strong interest in public engagement and have been a frequent contributor to radio 4 and various other media. I am also well known for my collaboration with artists, including working with Turner Prize winner Grenville Davey.


My collaborators

Over the years I have worked with lots of people from around the world.

Here is a list (ordered in terms of number of joint publications):

D.C.Thompson (Brussels), M.J.Perry (Cambridge), P.Sundell (Chile) , E.A.Bergshoeff (Groningen), F.J.Rudolph (Queen Mary), J.P.van.der.Schaar (Amsterdam), M.Cederwall (Goteborg), N.B.Copland (Cambridge), H.Godazgar (Cambridge), B.E.W.Nilsson (Goteborg), C.D.A.Blair (Brussels), E.Malek (Munich), E.T.Musaev (Moscow), H.Larsson (Gotebrog), J.Berkeley (Queen Mary), L.C.Tadrowski (Queen Mary), M.K.Parikh (Arizona), M.Nielsen (Goteborg), U.Gran (Gotebrog), A.Kleinschmidt (Potsdam), B.Pioline (CERN), E.Rabinovici (Jerusalem), E.Sezgin (Texas), I.Bakhmatov (Kazan), J.A.Harvey (Chicago), J.Bedford (Queen Mary), K.H.Lee (KIAS, Seoul), M.Godazgar (Cambridge), P.C.West (Kings London) and V.L.Campos (Goteborg).



My teaching

I currently teach Classical Physics for 1st year undergraduates and used to teach the third year course Spacetime and Gravity. I also supervise various theoretical projects for 3rd and 4th year students. Over the years I have been nominated for numerous teaching awards and won the most inspirational lecturer award by the student physics society in 2013.


Research Interests:

My research interests

My main research interests are in M-theory, the nonperturbative version of string theory. The extended objects in M-theory are membranes and five-branes. They are related to strings and D-branes in string theory via dimensional reduction. Over the last few years my research has been devoted to understanding the interactions of these branes. My other interests over the years have been varied and include: Holography and the AdS/CFT correspondence; noncommutative geometry; and S-duality in gauge theories. Since 2010, I have been interested in applying and extending the ideas of generalised geometry to M-theory. This has produced a duality manifest description of M-theory and has lead to a reworking of many ideas in relativity to take into account duality symmetries in string and M-theory. This is still on going research and has many applications in terms of potentially reformulating what string theory is. 

I have also recently taken a strong interest in Machine Learning and how ideas from physics can be used in that context.



A full and up to date publication list is available from the Inspires database linked to here.


I would be happy to discuss various PhD project possibilities and ideas. Below are specifically those in M-theory. I am also interested in ideas at the interface of machine learning and theoretical physics.


Public Engagement

For a general non-technical introduction to my research see my Youtube video here and here.


A list of my Public Engagement Activitities

Talks and articles for the general public

I am regularly invited to give public talks and am asked to write articles. A representative list of my activities:

Radio 4 “In our Time: Dirac” (2020);

Guardian Science PodCast “String Theory” (2020);

New Scientist Event, “Hidden Dimensions” (2019);

IoP “Time tries all things”, panel discussion (2019);

Radio 4 “In Our Time: Noether” (2019);

CODEX talk- “Creativity in Science”(2018);

Radio 4 “Great Lives: Feynman” programme (2018);

“Pinocchio”,  Saddlers Wells Theatre (2018);

“Time” at Mass Interaction,  Airspace (2017);

Twofold Symposium Birkbeck (2017);

Pint of Science (2017);

“Gravitational Waves” (2016) at IoP London, Sussex and Kent;

Article for book “One culture not two” (2016);

Consultant at the College of St George, Windsor castle on incorporating arts and sciences (2015);

Article for the White Rainbow gallery (2014);

Opening event for the Inside Out festival (2013);

Radio 4, “Great lives” programme (2013);

Eureka magazine (2013);

“Roswell invited lecture” at Wimbledon Girls Grammar (2012);

The Ivory Tower Society Cambridge(2012);

The Hay festival WTLGI (2012);

The Isaac Newton Institute (2012);

The Science Museum, Dublin December (2011), part of Ignite Dublin Series;

The Dana Centre “String theory and unification" November (2011);

Discussion Panel for Stephen Hawking Evening at Texas A & M University with an audience of 2500, April (2011);

Article for Plus+, a magazine for schools, “String Theory" (2007);

Invited contribution to the Tech-Mac-Mayacom exhibition Book (2007);

Article for Fusion magazine: “Unification in Science" (2006);

For Trinity Science Society, “Unification in Theoretical Physics" (2005 and 2007);

For Cambridge summer school in Science, “String theory and unification" (2007).

Nicky Shaw Public Understanding of Science lectures, (typically an audience of 200): “From Newton to Einstein" (2003); ”Introducing strings" (2004).

Talks organised by the Millennium Maths Project to schools or teacher groups:“An introduction to string theory" (2004); “From particles to strings" (2005); “What have mathematicians done for us?" (2005); “String theory for beginners" (2005);“Particles and Beyond" (2006); “Newton to Einstein" (2006); “String Theory and beyond" (2005, 2006 and 2007);

Videoconference presentation to schools, organised by motivate, part of the Millenium Maths project. These link several schools around the country for a day covering a central topic: “Relativity for beginners" (2005, 2006 and 2008); “The mathematics of quantum mechanics" (2007).

Artist Collaborations

Outlook Gallery, Venice Biennale (2019);

Grace Weir, large instillation for the Institute of Physics (2018);

Livvy Fink, commissioned work for QM School of Physics and Astronomy (2017);

Judge for SFX film festival (2017);

Grenville Davey (1992 Turner Prize winner), £1,500, the Henry Moore Foundation (2012);

Flow Motion (sound art group), the Dana Centre, £1000, EPSRC grant, £6000 (2011); 

Jordan Wolfson, in association with London Frieze and part of the Frieze arts festival in 2009, Cartier award winner (£10,000);     

An exhibition with Grenville Davey at Chelsea Space, gallery (2014);

An exhibition at the Ruskin multi-media gallery in Cambridge (2014);

A film event at Somerset house with Edward Frenkel (2014);

My interaction with artists has now reached international recognition with invited talks on art related subjects at the Korean Institute for Advanced study (2012) and articles in the Japanese popular magazine, Parity (2013) as well as invitations to Canada and Romania to talk about my collaborations. Talks at art institutions include: Institute of Contemporary Art (2008), Royal College of Art (2006), Tate Modern (2010), Testbed gallery (2012), Core Gallery (2012), Espacio Gallery (2013), Splice symposium (2013), the London Arts Club (2013) and the White Rainbow gallery (2014). This work has also appeared in the media such as the Guardian, the BBC 2 Culture Show, Wired magazine and an invited article for New Scientist.


I am director of outreach for the School of Physics and Astronomy. I have a long standing interest in public engagement in many different forms and have over the years built up a variety of activities at the boundary between science and arts. A list of my outreach activities is available here [PDF 54KB].

For a general non-technical introduction to my research see my Youtube video here and here.




For the Public:

I have some YouTube appearances here.

And my Radio 4 appearances discussing:

Emmy Noether

Paul Dirac

Richard Feynman




My talks (2020 updated)

Invited plenary talks:

Abu Dhabi M-theory Meeting (2020)

Simons Workshop on Machine Learning (2020)

Santiago workshop on Non-Abelian T-duality (2019)

Cooks Branch workshop, Texas (2019)

Cape Town workshop on Cosmology and DFT (2019)

Singapore workshop on M-theory and geometry (2018)

Brinsop House meeting (2018)

Durham LMS workshop on Higher Structures in M-theory (2018)

Korean Institute of Basic Science Symposium (2018)

Bariloche conference on Double and Exceptional Field Theory (2018)

Zagreb workshop on dualities and generalised geometry (2017)

Banff workshop on Duality manifest Formalisms (2017)

Brinsop House meeting (2017)

German Physical Society Meeting in Bad Honef (2017)

YETI meeting, Durham (2017)

Simons Institute Workshop on Generalised Geometry and Non-Abelian T-duality (2016)

Zurich ETH workshop (2016) “Cosmology and extended geometries”

APCTP meeting on extended geometries (2016) “Extended geometries”

Brinsop House meeting (2016)

String Field Theory, Sao Paulo (2016)

F-theory at 20 conference, CalTech (2016) "An action for F-theory". 

CERN, Recent Developments in M-theory, (2016) "F-theory from EFT". 

Schrodinger Institute workshop on higher gauge symmetries (2015) “Higher structures in extended geometries”

Korean conference on “Developments in M-theory” (2015) “Branes in extended geometry”

Frontiers in String Phenomenology, Schloss Ringberg (2014) “Extended geometry”

Kyoto workshop on generalised geometry (2014) “Extended geometry and quantisation"

Banff, M-theory conference (2014) “The origin of extended geometry"

Great Brampton meeting (2014) “Branes in extended geometries”

Strings2013- Korea (2013) “M-theory and extended geometries"

Cooks Branch meeting (2013) “Scherk-Schwarz reductions in extended geometry”

Durham workshop on strings and branes (2013) “U-duality and geometry"

Cooks Branch meeting (2012) “Local symmetries in generalised geometry”

Spanish Winter conference, Madrid (2012) “A survey of M-theory and generalised geometry"

Banff on Generalized Geometry (2012) “U-duality manifest theories"

Korean Institute for Advanced Studies Fall conference on strings and Branes (2012)

“Generalised geometry for M-theory"

Songang University EU meeting on double field theory, integrability and M-branes (2012), “Extended geometries"

Palencia strings meeting (2012), “Membranes and generalised geometry"

Stockhom workshop on Quantum Geometry (2011) “M-theory geometry".

Niels Bohr Institute workshop (2011), “Duality and generalised geometry".

Cooks Branch Meeting, Texas (2011) “U-duality and generalized geometry”

PICS meeting (2010), “M-theory and generalised geometry".

Cooks Branch Meeting, Texas, (2010) “Fermionic T-duality”

Galileo Institute Florence (2010), “M-theory and generalised geometry".

Cooks Branch Meeting, Texas (2009) “Boundaries of interacting membranes”

Korean Institute for advanced study conference on string theory (2008), “Interacting membranes"

Eurostrings08, RTN network meeting, Varna (2008), “Interacting membranes".

Brussels Triangle one day meeting (2008), “M-theory branes and their interactions".

Noncommutative geometry and physics (2008), Shonan Kokusaimura in Kanagawa, “M-

theory and noncommutative geometry".

Ascona Strings Meeting (2007) “String theory in the doubled formalism".

Eurostrings07, RTN meeting, Crete, “Fuzzy Geometries in M-theory".

Conference on noncommutative geometry in physics, Issac Newton Institute (2006), “Non-commutative geometry in string and M-theory".

Niels Bohr Institute summer workshop (2006), “Fuzzy Geometries in M-theory".

Eurostrings06, RTN network meeting, Cambridge (2006), “M-theory and the string genus


Beyond the horizon, KITP Santa Barbara (2006), “M-theory origin of string perturbation


The Triangle meeting on Nonperturbative aspects in string and field theory, Copenhagen (2000) “Open membranes and noncommutative five branes".

The Fradkin Memorial conference, Moscow (2000) “Critical fields on the five brane and non-commutative open strings".

Quantum Aspects of Gauge theories, Supersymmetry and Unifcation, Paris (1999) “Holograpy and rotating black holes".

Quantum Aspects of Gauge theories, Supersymmetry and Unification, Corfu (1998) “The M-five brane on a torus".


Invited Seminars

“Non-Riemannian Geometry in M-theory”: Swansea, Copenhagen (2019)

“An introduction to EFT and DFT”: Stanford (2019)

“EFT and exotic geometries”: Berkeley (2019)

“EFT and DFT as a Kaluza-Klein Theory”: York (2018)

“Branes in EFT and DFT”: Southampton (2018), City University of London (2018)

“String Theory”, University of Leeds (2016)

“Branes in Extended geometry”: Hannover (2015), Lyon (2014), Amsterdam (2014), Edinburgh (2014)

“Extended geometry in M-theory”: Buenos Aires (2014), Lisbon (2013), Imperial College (2013), Paris (2013) Sogang University, Soeul (2012)

“M-theory and generalised geometry”: Brussels (2011); Oxford (2011); Amsterdam (2011); Kings College London (2011); Cambridge (2010).

“Recent progress in String theory”: University of Kent (2010).

“Aspects of interacting multiple membranes”: Perimeter institute, Canada (2009); Kings College London (2009); DAMTP, Cambridge (2008); Niels Bohr Institute (2008); Jerusalem (2008); Brussels (2008).

“String Theory and the doubled formalism”: Tokyo (2008); Edinburgh (2008); Rome (2007); Texas A&M (2007).

“Noncommutativity in string and M-theory”: Rome (2007); Texas A&M (2007);

University of Oxford (Department of Mathematics) (2007).

“M-theory and the string genus expansion”: University of Durham (2006); ICTP Trieste (2006); University of Cambridge (2006); University of Sussex (2005).

“Self-dual string Anomalies”: CERN Theory division (2004); University of Amsterdam (2004); Niels Bohr Institute Copenhagen (2004); Harvard University (2004); MIT (2004); University of Chicago (2004); University of Michigan (2004);

“Membranes, Ribbons and Schild Strings”: Imperial College London (2004).

“M five-brane dynamics”:

Kings College, University of London (2004); University of Cambridge (2003); University of Durham (2003); University of Swansea (2003); University of Michigan (2003); University of Chicago(2003).

“Open Membranes”: Humbolt University, Berlin (2002); University of Uppsala (2002)

“AdS3 OM-theory”: Princeton University (2001); Columbia University, New York (2001); Les Houches School (2001); University of Utrecht (2001); University of Groningen (2001); Neve Shalom Centre of Excellence meeting, Israel (2001)

“A noncommutative five brane”: Humbolt University, Berlin (2001)

Queen Mary College (2000); Landelijk meeting Amsterdam (2000); University of Goteborg (2000); University of Utrecht (2000); University of Cambridge (2000).

“Black hole thermodynamics and AdS/CFT”: University of Leuven (2000)

Landelijk Meeting Amsterdam (1999).

“Branes and dualities”: University of Groningen (1998); University of Manchester (1998).