Sylvester James Gates

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Sylvester James Gates, Jr.
JimGates NatureofExistence.jpg
Born (1950-12-15) December 15, 1950 (age 68)
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology (BS, PhD)
Known forcontributions to Supersymmetry, Supergravity and Superstring Theory
Supersymmetry nonrenormalization theorems
Superconformal algebra
Bihermitian manifolds
Adinkra symbols
AwardsKlopsteg Memorial Award (2003)
National Medal of Science (2013)
Scientific career
FieldsTheoretical physics
InstitutionsMassachusetts Institute of Technology
University of Maryland, College Park
Brown University
Doctoral advisorJames E. Young

Sylvester James Gates Jr. (born December 15, 1950), known as S. James Gates Jr. or Jim Gates, is an American theoretical physicist who works on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory. He retired from the physics department at the University of Maryland College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences in 2017,[2] and he is now the Brown Theoretical Physics Center Director, the Ford Foundation Professor of Physics, Affiliate Professor of Mathematics, and Watson Institute for International Studies & Public Affairs Faculty Fellow at Brown University.[3] He was a University of Maryland Regents Professor and served on former President Barack Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.[4]


Gates received two BS degrees from MIT in Mathematics and Physics (1973) and PhD (1977) degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His doctoral thesis was the first at MIT on supersymmetry. With M. T. Grisaru, M. Rocek and W. Siegel, Gates coauthored Superspace, or One thousand and one lessons in supersymmetry (1984), the first comprehensive book on supersymmetry.[5]

Gates is on the board of trustees of Society for Science & the Public and is active in scientific outreach.

Gates was a Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Scholar at MIT (2010–11) and was a Residential Scholar at MIT's Simmons Hall. He is pursuing ongoing research into string theory, supersymmetry, and supergravity at Brown university. His current research focus is on Adinkra symbols, a graph-theoretic technique for studying supersymmetric representation theories.

In 2018, Gates was elected to the presidential line of the American Physical Society: he will begin to serve as its Vice President in 2019, and president as of 2021.[6]

Awards and recognition[edit]

On February 1, 2013, Gates was a recipient of the National Medal of Science.[7] Gates was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2013.[8]

Gates was nominated by the Department of Energy as one of the USA Science and Engineering Festival's "Nifty Fifty" Speakers to present his work and career to middle and high school students in October 2010.[9] On December 5, 2016, Gates spoke at the 2016 Quadrennial Physics Congress, the largest ever gathering of physics undergraduates.

Media appearances[edit]

Recently Gates has been featured in TurboTax and Verizon commercials and has a been featured extensively on NOVA PBS programs on physics, notably "The Elegant Universe" (2003). He completed a DVD series titled Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality (2006) for The Teaching Company consisting of 24 half-hour lectures to make the complexities of unification theory comprehensible to laypeople.[10] During the 2008 World Science Festival, Gates narrated a ballet "The Elegant Universe", where he gave a public presentation of the artistic forms connected to his scientific research.[11] Gates Appeared on the 2011 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate: The Theory of Everything, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson.[12] Gates also appeared in the BBC Horizon documentary The Hunt for Higgs in 2012. Gates recently appeared in another NOVA documentary "Big Bang Machine" in 2015.


  • Superspace or 1001 Lessons in Supersymmetry, (with M. T. Grisaru, M. Roček, and W. Siegel), Benjamin-Cummings Publishing Company (1983), Reading, MA (On-line;
  • L'arte della fisica superspace, Stringhe, superstringhe, teoria unificata dei campi, 2006, Di Renzo Editore, ISBN 88-8323-155-4.
  • Reality in the Shadows (or) What the Heck's the Higgs?, (with Steven Jacob Sekula and Frank Blitzer), YBK Publishers, Inc. (2018), New York, New York, (ISBN 978-1-936411-39-9).
  • Proving Einstein Right: The Daring Expeditions that Changed How We Look at the Universe, (with Cathie Pelletier), Publisher: PublicAffairs (September 24, 2019) ISBN 978-1541762251.


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