Sylvester James “Jim” Gates, Jr.

S. James Gates, Jr. , Distinguished University Professor, University Regents Professor and John H. Toll Professor of Physics, University of Maryland

Sylvester James “Jim” Gates, Jr., (born December 15, 1950) is an American theoretical physicist. He received two B.S. degrees (mathematics & physics) in 1973 and a Ph.D. degree all from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the latter in 1977. His doctoral thesis was the first thesis at MIT to deal with supersymmetry. He also completed postgraduate studies at both Harvard University and the California Institute of Technology (CalTech). Gates is currently a University System Regents Professor, Distinguished University Professor, the John S. Toll Professor of Physics, and the Center for Particle & String Theory Director at the University of Maryland, College Park, and serves on the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and the Maryland State

Board of Education (MD-BoE). He is known for his work on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory. In 1984, working with M.T. Grisaru, M. Rocek, W. Siegel, Gates co-authored Superspace, the first comprehensive book on the topic of supersymmetry. In 2006, he released, the book L'arte della Fisica (The Art of Physics), and has authored over 200 scientific publications.

  • Prof. Gates has been featured on many documentary programs on physics. Among these are “The Elegant Universe,” “Einstein’s Big Idea,” “Fabric of the Cosmos,” and “The Hunt for the Higgs.”
  • In 2006, he completed a DVD series titled Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality for The Teaching Company, composed of 24 half-hour lectures to make the complexities of unification theory comprehensible to non-physicists.
  • In the spring of 2009, he was appointed to PCAST and MD-BoE, and serves as PCAST’s co-chair of its working group on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) preeminence for the nation.
  • At the 2008 World Science Festival, Prof. Gates narrated a ballet “The Elegant Universe” with an on-line resource presentation of the artist forms (called adinkras) connected to his scientific research. This was the topic of “Symbols of power: Adinkras and the nature of reality,” a cover story of the British magazine Physics World in 2010.
  • In October 2011, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • In 2012, he was named a University System of Maryland Regents Professor, only the sixth person to be so recognized since 1992.
  • In 2013, President Obama awarded Prod. Gates the National Medal of Science, the highest recognition given by the U.S. to scientists with the citation, “For his contribution to the mathematics of supersymmetry in particle, field, and string theories and his extraordinary efforts to engage the public on the beauty and wonder of fundamental physics.”
  • In 2013, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, becoming the first African-American physicist so recognized in its 150-year history.
  • On November 16, 2013, Prof. Gates was awarded the Mendel Medal by Villanova University “in recognition of his influential work in supersymmetry, supergravity and string theory, as well as his advocacy for science and science education in the United States and abroad.”
  • In January 2014, named to the National Commission on Forensic Science, Dept of Justice and National Institute of Standards & Technology,
  • In March 2014, named the 2014 “Scientist of the Year” by the Harvard Foundation,
  • In July 2014, made multiple presentations at the U.K.’s Cheltenham Science Festival.

He is past president of the National Society of Black Physicists, and a NSBP Fellow, as well as a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Institute of Physics in the U.K. He is a member of the Board of Directors for Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. He also is currently serving as a Distinguished Research Chair at Canada’s Perimeter Institute. He has been elected to membership in the American Philosophical Society.

His continuing research in supersymmetry, supergravity and superstring/M-theory can be seen via a link on his homepage that leads to a popular-level discussion entitled, “Symbols of Power” and “From the Mathematics of Supersymmetry to the Music of Arnold Schoenberg” (available on Youtube) as well the link marked as “Q2C Festival 2009 Talk” describing some of his current investigations on links of adinkras, error-correcting codes,and equations of fundamental physics.