Watson Institute at Brown University
International and Public Affairs
Sylvester James Gates, Jr.

Sylvester James Gates, Jr.

Sylvester James Gates, Jr.

Brown Theoretical Physics Center Director

Areas of Interest: Theoretical Physics: Supersymmetry, Supergravity, Superstring theory; Mathematics; Public Policy: Education Policy, Science & Technology Policy (PCAST; Obama Administration), National Commission on Forensic Science (NCFS), Maryland State Board of Education


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 Brown Theoretical Physics Center Director, Ford Foundation Professor of Physics, an Affiliate Mathematics Professor, and a Faculty Fellow, Watson Institute for International Studies & Public Affairs at Brown University. While at the University of Maryland, College Park, Gates was a University System Regents Professor, the John S. Toll Professor of Physics, the Director of the String and Particle Theory Center, and Affiliate Professor of Mathematics. Gates served on the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, contemporaneously on the Maryland State Board of Education from 2009-2016, and the National Commission on Forensic Science from 2013-2016. 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 2019, together with Cathie Pelletier, he co-authored Proving Einstein Right: The Daring Expeditions that Changed How We Look at the Universe.

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 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 2018, he was elected to serve in the presidential line as Vice President of the American Physical Society. In 2019, he was invited to serve on the American Bar Assoc Steering Committee for the Annual Prescription For Criminal Justice And Forensic Science.

In 2015, he became a member of the Board of Directors of the Achieve, Inc. He continues to broadly engage video documentaries with appearances or cameos.

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



“On the Ubiquity Of Electromagnetic-Duality Rotations in 4D, N = 1 Holoraumy Tensors for On-Shell 4D Supermultiplets”,

S. James Gates et al.. Jun 7, 2019. 21 pp. Brown University Preprint HET-1789 e-Print: arXiv:1906.02971 [hep-th] | PDF

“Progress on cubic interactions of arbitrary superspin supermultiplets via gauge invariant supercurrents”, S. James Gates (Brown U. & Brown U. (main)), K. Koutrolikos (Brown U.). Apr 30, 2019. 10 pp. e-Print: arXiv:1904.13336 [hep-th] | PDF

“On Linearized Nordstr\" om Supergravity in Eleven and Ten Dimensional Superspaces (2)” S. James Gates, Yangrui Hu (Brown U.), Hanzhi Jiang (Brown U. & Rutgers U., Piscataway), S.-N. Hazel Mak (Brown U.). Apr 3, 2019. 27 pp. Brown Univ. Physics Dept. Preprint # HET-1783, HET-1783 e-Print: arXiv:1904.02328 [hep-th] | PDF

“Adinkra Height Yielding Matrix Numbers: Eigenvalue Equivalence Classes for Minimal Four-Color Adinkras”, S. James Gates, Kory Stiffler, Yangrui Hu. Apr 2, 2019. 38 pp. HET-1788 e-Print: arXiv:1904.01738 [hep-th] | PDF

“Superfield continuous spin equations of motion”, I.L. Buchbinder (Tomsk Pedagogical Inst. & Tomsk State U.), S. James Gates, K. Koutrolikos (Brown U.). Mar 20, 2019. 13 pp. e-Print: arXiv:1903.08631 [hep-th] | PDF

“On Linearized Nordstr\"om Supergravity in Eleven and Ten Dimensional Superspaces” S. James Gates, Yangrui Hu (Brown U.), Hanzhi Jiang (Brown U. & Rutgers U., Piscataway), S.-N. Hazel Mak (Brown U.). Dec 13, 2018. 31 pp. Brown Univ. HET-1779 e-Print: arXiv:1812.05097 [hep-th] | PDF

“Exploring the Abelian 4D, N= 4 Vector-Tensor Supermultiplet and Its Off-Shell Central Charge Structure”, S. James Gates, Kory Stiffler (Brown U.). Dec 11, 2018. Published in JHEP 1903 (2019) 129, Brown-HET-1780, DOI: 10.1007/JHEP03(2019)129 e-Print: arXiv:1812.04236 [hep-th] | PDF


  • Flat Earth to Quantum Uncertainty: On the Nature and Meaning of Scientific Explanation (PHYS 0100) Fall of 2017, Fall of 2018, Fall of 2019.
  • Foundations of Electromagnetism and Modern Physics (PHYS 060) Spring of 2018, Spring of 2019.

Talks & Media


Commencement address to the 2019 Class of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA), Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, 1 June 2019.

“Einstein + Popper = Daubert: What is falsifiability & Why Does It Dominate Science”, Tenth Annual Prescription For Criminal Justice & Forensic Science National Institute, Fordham University School of Law, New York, NY, 29 May 2019.

“Einstein v Robert”, Invited Speaker at The College of Natural Sciences at Cal State San Bernardino, CA, 20 May 2019.

"Breitenlohner's M-Theory Magic Carpet", "Modern Trends in Particle Physics: A Conference in Honor of Pran Nath", Northeastern University, Boston, 17 May 2019.

“A Mathematical Journey Thru SUSY, Error-Correcting Codes, Evolution, and a Sustainable Reality”, Featured Speaker at the Mathematical Association of American Metro NY Section, New York City College of Technology, Brooklyn, NY, 4 May 2019.

“SUSY May Be Necessary To Prevent Cosmic Apoptosis”, Physics Colloquium at 5 Colleges, Physics Colloquium for 5 Colleges, Northampton, MA, 28 Mar 2019.

“A Mathematical Journey Thru SUSY, Error-Correcting Codes, Evolution, and a Sustainable Reality”, Physics Colloquium at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, 22 Mar 2019.


Commencement address to the 2019 Class of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA), Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, 1 June 2019.


Featured in the 23 May 2019 episode of NASA’s Unexplained Files: Discovery Science on the Science Channel of Discovery.com.  (link currently unavailable)


Featured in the 10 March 2019 episode of “Einstein and Hawking: Unlocking the Universe” on the Science Channel of Discovery.com.  



Featured in the 10 Oct 2018 Episode of “The Mystery of our Mathematical Universe”/The Nour Foundation, Conversations on the Nature of Reality 



Contributed to Magic Numbers: Hannah Fry's Mysterious World of Maths (TV Mini-Series) Episode 1. Aired 10 Oct 2018. BBC 4 Production. (I do not believe this is currently available)