University of Maryland Newsdesk.www.newsdesk.umd.edu
For Immediate Release
UM Physics Professor Jim Gates Named to President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
COLLEGE PARK, Md - University of Maryland physics Professor Sylvester "Jim" Gates was named yesterday by President Obama as a member of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). He joins a team of 20 of the country's leading scientists and engineers who will advise the President directly to help the administration formulate policy related to science, technology, and innovation.
"I offer Jim Gates my very best congratulations on his appointment to the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology," said Steve Steve Halperin, Dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Maryland. "This appointment constitutes an awesome responsibility, as he will have a strong voice on national science policy. I can think of no better choice from our university."
"I have always thought the service by which University of Maryland professors are judged, in addition to research and teaching, is the value [of their work] to society," said Gates. "Serving our nation as a presidential advisor on science and technology is an unexpected honor and a task that I will perform to the utmost of my abilities and knowledge."
"It was my very great pleasure to meet President Obama at the announcement of his new advisory council. On inauguration day, The Baltimore Sun carried an opinion piece I wrote about how the election of President Obama would change the `DNA of Reality' for our country's future. I never expected that change to have such a direct and immediate impact on my future."
Creating a Theory of Everything
Jim Gates has long been known for his groundbreaking, ongoing work in supersymmetry and supergravity, areas that are closely related to string theory. In 1983, he co-authored the book "Superspace or 1001 Lessons in Supersymmetry," which more than two decades later remains a standard in the field. String theory. Hailed by many physicists as the "Unified Field Theory" that was pursued unsuccessfully by Einstein, string theory is a leading candidate for what is commonly called the "theory of everything." Such a theory could explain the origins of all matter and energy in the universe and may one day form the basis for technologies that we cannot even imagine today.
Gates is also well known for outstanding contributions to the popularization of science and the promotion of science education and science careers to young people. In 2007 the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society, named Gates as the winner of its 2006 Public Understanding of Science and Technology Award.
Gates, the John S. Toll Professor of Physics at Maryland, is the first African American to hold an endowed chair in physics at a major research university in the United States. He has a B.S. degree in mathematics and physics and a Ph.D. degree in elementary particle physics and quantum field theory, both from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Gates has held appointments at MIT, Harvard, the California Institute of Technology and Howard University and has served as a consultant to the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Educational Testing Service and Time-Life Books. He is also a past president of the National Society of Black Physicists and in March 2009 was nominated by Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley to become a member of the Maryland State Board of Education. His appointment was approved and his service will begin in July of 2009.
Gates has been featured in several profiles, including a 2001 cover story of the magazine, Black Issues in Higher Education. Adept at explaining difficult concepts of physics in clear language for the public, he has also appeared in four scientific documentaries on PBS, including "The Elegant Universe" and the first Isaac Asimov Memorial Panel Debate on a "Theory of Everything in 2001."
Among his students, Gates also is known as an inspiring teacher and role model. He has received many awards for his work as an educator, including selection by the University of Maryland as a "Distinguished Scholar-Teacher;" by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation as a "Teacher as Scholar;" and by Washington Academy of Sciences as its College Science Teacher of the Year in 1999.
Ambassador of ScienceAnother aspect of Gates' amazing, wide-ranging career has been his engagement in issues of science and education policy at an international level. An example of this was his participation in an "International Panel" charged with making a report to the government of the Republic of South Africa for sustaining that country's national physics infrastructure for the nation's global economic competitiveness. He is a Fellow of the Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Study in Cape Town, South Africa.
In 2004, Professor Gates delivered an address at the International Forum on Cooperation and Development in Education, Research and Health Care in Tbilisi, Georgia. During December 2006, he was one of four international scientists to address the International Physics Young Ambassador Symposium in Taipei, Taiwan. He is currently a member of the board of Maliwatch, an organization promoting issues of education, health and economic development in the western African country of Mali. During the last biannual conference in Bamako, Mali, Prof Gates was invited to meet the Prime Minister, Modibo Sibibe. In Australia, Prof. Gates currently holds a visiting appointment at the Institute for Advance Study affiliated with the University of Western Australia and has served as a scientific assessor for the Australian Research Council. His activities in this realm also include public talks in Perth, Australia, Beijing, China, Caracas, Venezuela, and this past March in Roorkee, India, where he spoke about the need and value of science for all societies.