Advances in mathematical physics during the 20th century led to the discovery of a relationship between group theory and representation theory with the theory of special functions. Specifically, it was discovered that many of the special functions are (1) specific matrix elements of matrix representations of Lie groups, and (2) basis functions of operator representations of Lie algebras. By viewing the special functions in this way, it is possible to derive many of their properties that were originally discovered using classical analysis, such as generating functions, differential relations, and recursion relations. This relationship is of interest to physicists due to the fact that many of the common special functions, such as Hermite polynomials and Bessel functions, are related to remarkably simple Lie groups used in physics. Unfortunately, much of the literature on this subject remains inaccessible to undergraduate students. The purpose of this project is to research the existing literature and to organize the results, presenting the information in a way that can be understood at the undergraduate level. The primary objects of study will be the Heisenberg group and its relationship to the Hermite polynomials, as well as the Euclidean group in the plane and its relationship to the Bessel functions. The ultimate goal is to make the results relevant for undergraduate students who have studied quantum mechanics. |