2018 Neff Public Lecture

Dr. Sylvester James (Jim) Gates, Jr.
B rown University

Sylvester James  (Jim) Gates, Jr.

What Abdus Salam Taught Me About Jazz

Tuesday, September 11, 2018
4:15 p.m.
Umberger 105


In the early nineteen eighties, Gates spent several summers at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics headed by physics Nobel Prize winner Abdus Salam.

Salam once made a curious comment about jazz, which thirty years later resulted in an essay by Gates being cited by the Supreme Court of the United States on the issue of diversity.

Lecture Poster



Sylvester James "Jim" Gates, Jr., (born December 15, 1950) is an American theoretical physicist. He received two B.S. degrees and a Ph.D. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the latter in 1977. His doctoral thesis was the first one at MIT to deal with supersymmetry. In 2017, Gates retired from the University of Maryland, and is currently the Ford Foundation Professor of Physics, and an Affiliate Mathematics Professor at Brown University. While at the University of Maryland, Gates was a University System Regents Professor, the John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Director of the String and Particle Theory Center, Affiliate Professor of Mathematics. Gates served on the U.S. President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and contemporaneously on Maryland State Board of Education from 2009-2016, and the National Commission on Forensic Science from 2013-1016. 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 2017, working with Frank Blitzer and Stephen Jacob Sekula, he co-authored Reality in the Shadows (Or) What the Heck's 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 2012, he was named a University System of Maryland Regents Professor, only the sixth person so recognized in the system's history. He is a past president of the National Society of Black Physicists, and is 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 also is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. In 2013, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, becoming the first African-American theoretical 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." President Obama awarded Prof. Gates the 2011 National Medal of Science, the highest award given to scientists in the U.S., at a White House ceremony in 2013. During 2014, he was named the Harvard Foundation's ''Scientist of the Year.''

In 2015, he became a member of the Board of Directors of the Achieve, Inc and the Board of Councillors for the Boy Scout of America's STEM National Council. He continues to broadly engage video documentaries with appearance or cameos in six of these in 2015:
(1.) "The Big Bang Machine"
(2.) "The Great Math Mystery"
(3.) "The Mystery of Matter"
(4.) "Inside Einstein's Mind"
(5.) "Thru The Wormhole: Do We Live In The Matrix?"
(6.) "Secrets of Einstein's Brain"
(7.) and in 2016 he appeared the program "Inside CERN" in the BBC Horizon series

He currently continues his research in supersymmetry in systems of particles, fields, and strings.