Sylvester James Gates, Jr

Past President

Sylvester James Gates, Jr. photo

Sylvester James “Jim” Gates, Jr. a theoretical physicist, is currently at the University of Maryland where he holds the Clark Leadership Chair in Science (affiliated with the Department of Physics and the School of Public Policy) and serving as the Director of the Center for String and Particle Theory. He was born December 15,1950, and was raised in the USA and Canada. His degrees are from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (physics BS 1973/math BS 1973/ physics PhD 1977). His doctoral thesis was MIT’s first on supersymmetry. He held postdoctoral positions at Harvard and Caltech (1977-1982). In 1984, with M.T. Grisaru, M. Rocek, and W. Siegel, Gates co-authored “Superspace,” the first comprehensive book on the topic of supersymmetry. The year of 2022 marked the fiftieth consecutive year of his university-level teaching in institutions as diverse as Caltech, Howard University, Gustavus Adophus College, MIT, and the University of Maryland.

Gates received the 2011 National Medal of Science, with a citation reading, “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 and later elected to the council of the NAS. Currently, he remains an active researcher in this field at the boundary of mathematics and physics by publishing regularly in refereed journals.

He served as a General Councilor of the American Physical Society during 1997-2001 and he was the first recipient of the APS Bouchet Award in 1994. He is also a recipient of the AAAS’s Public Understanding of Science & Technology Award. Gates served on the US President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the National Commission on Forensic Science, and the Maryland State Board of Education in the period of 2009-2016. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Past advisory positions include service on the National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee on Physics, the Department of Energy’s High Energy Physics Advisory Panel, the LIGO Operations and Scientific Research Sub-Panel and NSF Review Committee, the LIGO Director's Physics Advisory Committee, the Board of Trustees of the Society for Science & the Public, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Forensic Science Standards Board. He is an alumnus of the Defense Science Study Group. His 2015 essay “Thoughts On Creativity, Diversity and Innovation in Science & Education” was cited in the Supreme Court decision known as “Fisher v. Texas.”

Having contributed to over a dozen programs, he continues to broadly appear in documentaries and most recently, "NOVA: The Universe Revealed" and "Hawking, Can You Hear Me?" during 2021. Also he has been called by BBC America to comment upon the discovery of gravitational radiation, and the career of Stephen Hawking. Jim has created content for the public. During 2019, in a collaboration with accomplished novelist Cathie Pelletier, he co-authored “Proving Einstein Right: The Daring Expeditions that Changed How We Look at the Universe.”In 2017, with Frank Blitzer and Stephen Sekula, he co-authored “Reality in the Shadows (Or) What the Heck's the Higgs?” In 2006, he completed “Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality,” 24 half-hour DVD’s to make the complexities of modern theory accessible to non-physicists.