A black and white portrait of Jim Gates. He is smiling, wearing glasses and a blazer, and has long hair.

Sylvester James (Jim) Gates, Jr. is the Ford Foundation Professor of Physics, Affiliate Professor of Mathematics, and Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs Faculty Fellow at Brown University and director of its Theoretical Physics Center. Known for his work on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory, Dr. Gates uses mathematical models to explore the elementary particles and fundamental forces of nature.

Before joining the faculty of Brown University in 2017, Dr. Gates was a Distinguished University Professor, University System of Maryland Regents Professor, and the John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland and director of its Center for String and Particle Theory. Before joining the faculty of the University of Maryland in 1984, he held postdoctoral appointments as a Harvard University Society of Fellows Junior Fellow and as a Research Fellow at the California Institute of Technology. He also served as a member of the Maryland State Board of Education and the U. S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

In 1984, working with M. T. Grisaru, M. Rocek, and W. Siegel, Dr. Gates co-authored Superspace, the first comprehensive book on the topic of supersymmetry. He has published more than two hundred research papers. Some of his research in physics has led to the creation of surprising new results in the field of mathematics, including complex manifolds, network theory, and representation theory. International aspects of his career include appointments as a Fellow of the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies (South Africa), Professor-at-large at the University of Western Australia (Australia), and a Distinguished Research Chair of the Perimeter Institute (Canada), and a Fellow of the Institute of Physics (United Kingdom). He authored the 2006 Italian book L’arte della fisica, published in Rome, and popular-level discussion entitled ‘‘Symbols of Power,’’ published in the British journal Physics World. “Symbols of Power” describes research begun in 2004 on Adinkras, a new concept that links computer codes like those used in browsers to the supersymmetric equations of fundamental physics.

During his career, Dr. Gates has received a number of honors for his teaching, including the 1999 College Science Teacher of the Year from the Washington Academy of Sciences, the 2002 Distinguished Scholar-Teacher from the University of Maryland, and the 2003 Klopsteg Award from the American Association of Physics Teachers. In 2006, the American Association for the Advancement of Science honored him with the Public Understanding of Science Award, and in 2013 President Barack Obama awarded Dr. Gates the National Medal of Science for his contributions to science and research.

He has been featured in many science documentaries on physics, most notably The Elegant Universe (2003). In 2006, he completed the DVD series Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality for The Teaching Company exploring the complexities of unification theory. During the 2008 World Science Festival, Dr. Gates narrated a ballet, The Elegant Universe, with an online resource of the art forms (called Adinkras) connected to his scientific research. The NOVA/PBS science documentary The Fabric of the Cosmos features Dr. Gates.

Links to Additional Information

Profile from Physicists of the African Diaspora

Dr. Gates’ Biosketch and Research Interests

Interview with Cultural Programs of the NAS