Sylvester Gates

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February 10, 2017

The National Society of Black Physicists honors Dr. Sylvester Gates

jim gatesDr. Sylvester James Gates was born on December 15, 1950, in Tampa, Florida. He is an African-American theoretical physicist, known for his work on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory. As a young man, Gates’s parents always stressed the importance of education. At the age of eight, his father brought him a set of Encyclopedia Britannica, which would spark his interest in science. In 1969, when he graduated high school, his father encouraged him to enroll into MIT. He completed his B.S. degree in mathematics and physics in 1973 and his Ph.D. in physics in 1977. His thesis, “Symmetry Principles in Selected Problems of Field Theory,” was the first at MIT to deal with symmetry. After graduating he attended Harvard University as a junior fellow from 1977 to 1980. After a short stint with the California Institute of Technology, he accepted an assistant professor in applied mathematics position at MIT in 1982. Then in 1984 he joined the University of Maryland as an associate professor in physics. The same year, Gates co-authored the book Superspace, or One thousand and one lessons in supersymmetry, the first comprehensive book on supersymmetry. He briefly left UMD from 1990 to 1993 to teach at Howard University before returning to UMD in 1994. In 1998, Gates was named the John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland, becoming the first African American to hold an endowed chair in physics at a major university in the United States. Dr. Sylvester James Gates has received numerous honors and awards. In 2009, President Barack Obama named him as a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. He is the first recipient of the American Physical Society’s Edward A. Bouchet Award. In 2013, Gates was the recipient of the National Medal of Science and he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Gates is the author of more than 200 research papers and has been featured in several video documentaries, and several national televised spots, including a TurboTax commercial in 2016. Today, Dr. Gates continues to serve as a Distinguished University Professor, a University System of Maryland Regents Professor and John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland. He is a strong advocate for science, technology, engineering, education and being able to easily explain complex physics theories to non-physics audiences.