GUTs and Exceptional Branes in F-Theory

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F-theory compactifications on Calabi-Yau fourfolds provide one way to obtain N=1 supersymmetric grand unified models of particle physics from string theory. With this motivation in mind, I will consider F-theory on a particularly simple class of local Calabi-Yau fourfolds, for which a low-energy analysis based upon topological gauge theory is valid. For these models, I will explain how the geometry of the fourfold determines the spectrum of massless charged matter and the effective superpotential in four dimensions. If time permits, I will also discuss the relation between certain surface operators in gauge theory and brane recombination in F-theory.