Algebra @ Ghent University

Members of our research group



PhD students

  • Jari Desmet
  • Michiel Smet (with cosupervisors Hendrik De Bie and Sigiswald Barbier)
  • Inga Valentiner-Branth

Master students

  • Louis Olyslager

Current research topics

Our main research topics are group theory, non-associative algebraic structures, and related geometric and topological structures.

Structurable algebras, linear algebraic groups and related structures in geometry and group theory

We investigate the connection between a class of non-associative algebras known as structurable algebras and linear algebraic groups (over arbitrary fields) and related group-theoretical structures such as Moufang sets (this is a class of doubly transitive permutation groups, introduced by Jacques Tits) and buildings (also introduced by Jacques Tits) and related point-line geometries. In particular, we make use of Jordan algebras, quadratic forms, and other algebraic objects related to linear algebraic groups. We are particularly interested in exceptional linear algebraic groups and in the corresponding cohomological invariants.

Finite groups, axial algebras and decomposition algebras

An axial algebra is a commutative non-associative algebra generated by certain idempotents such that the multiplication of eigenspaces with respect to each idempotent satisfies a certain fusion law. The example after which these algebras have been modeled, is the Griess algebra, the automorphism group of which is the Monster group. We have been investigating connections between axial algebras and 3-transposition groups and we have developed a theory of modules for axial algebras. We have recently introduced the more general notion of decomposition algebras, allowing for a wider variety of interesting examples.

We have constructed explicit examples of such algebras for Chevalley groups of simply laced type. For E8, for instance, this provides an explicit construction of a commutative non-associative 3875-dimensional algebra. Notice that this provides (initially unexpectedly) a connection with the our research topic on linear algebraic groups mentioned above.

Totally disconnected locally compact groups

We have been studying automorphism groups of locally finite trees, in particular the so-called universal groups (with respect to a prescribed local action). We have extended this to the study of universal groups for locally finite right-angled buildings. More recently, we have extended this to right-angled buildings that are not necessarily locally finite, leading to an interesting interplay between local vs. global topological properties.