Nobel Conference 49 Profile of S. James Gates Jr.

Posted on September 26th, 2013 by

Dr. Sylvester James Gates Jr. is a theoretical physicist who uses mathematics to explore the fundamental symmetries that are revealed when we seek to answer the most basic question about the matter in our universe—”What is inside of everything?” He is also someone whose work makes connections across disciplines, between science and history, the arts, philosophy, and religion.

Dr. Gates is University System of Maryland Regents Professor, John S. Toll Professor of Physics, and director of the Center for String & Particle Theory at the University of Maryland. His professional accolades and involvement include the National Medal of Science, the Mendel Medal, election to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, as well as his appointment by President Obama to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

His work has included string theories—which posit that all of the energy and matter in the universe may ultimately consist of incredibly tiny, vibrating “strings”.Just the fact that we use the word “string” in this context is one example of how we are limited by our language, vocabulary, and experience whenever we try to explain things that are so small that we will never be able to see them. Professor Gates has been one of the most successful communicators of the essence of fundamental science to the general public. In 2005 he spoke at Nobel Conference 41, “The Legacy of Einstein.” He returned in 2007 as the Robert and Susan Rydell Professor at Gustavus Adolphus College, when he team-taught a course in string theory for a general-education audience. We are overjoyed that he has agreed once again to serve as the Rydell Professor at Gustavus this year and to deliver the closing lecture at this year’s Nobel Conference.

Perhaps no better description of Professor Gates can be given than the citation that accompanied his National Medal of Science:

For contributions to the mathematics of supersymmetry in particle, field, and string theories and extraordinary efforts to engage the public on the beauty and wonder of fundamental physics.

Please make plans to join us on October 1 & 2 for Nobel Conference 49, “The Universe at its Limits,” to learn more from Professor Gates and our other invited speakers about how our understanding of the universe continues to evolve. Tickets are on sale now. For information about tickets, the Nobel Conference, or this year’s speakers, please visit


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