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Sylvester James Gates, Jr. Honored by Harvard University

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Image of Jim Gates on stage

Via CMNS / By Anne Suplee 

Sylvester James Gates, Jr. was awarded an honorary doctorate of science during Harvard University’s 373rd Commencement Exercises on May 23, 2024.

Image of Jim Gates and others dressed in commencement regalia at Harvard's 2024 commencement ceremony
(Clockwise from top left) Honorary degree recipients Jennie Chin Hansen, Sylvester James Gates Jr., Lawrence S. Bacow, Joy Harjo-Sapulpa, Gustavo Adolfo Dudamel Ramírez, and Maria Ressa with Interim President Alan Garber and Interim Provost John Manning. Credit: Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

A member of the National Academy of Sciences and recipient of the National Medal of Science, Gates holds the Clark Leadership Chair in Science and a joint appointment in the Department of Physics and the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. He is also a Distinguished University Professor and a University System of Maryland Regents Professor.

Gates is well-known for his seminal work in supersymmetry, supergravity and string theory. He has made milestone discoveries in the mathematics of particle theory and the geometry of gravity. In addition to his research achievements, Gates also distinguished himself as a powerful advocate for education and an ambassador for science around the world.

Gates received the 2011 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.” He served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) under Barack Obama and was the vice president of the Maryland State Board of Education. Gates was the recipient of the American Institute of Physics’ 2021 Andrew Gemant Award, given in recognition of contributions to the cultural, artistic, or humanistic dimension of physics. 

He is the author (with Cathie Pelletier) of Proving Einstein Right: The Daring Expeditions that Changed How We Look at the Universe, a well-reviewed tale of scientific passion and pursuit in the early 20th century.

Gates joined the UMD physics faculty in 1984. He has also held appointments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Howard University, Dartmouth College and Brown University. He has served as president of both the National Society of Black Physicists and the American Physical Society.

In addition to the new recognition from Harvard, Gates has been awarded honorary degrees from South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Johannesburg, Brown University, the University of Pennsylvania, Memorial University of Newfoundland, NYU-Poly, Morgan State University, the University of Western Australia, Loyola University Chicago and Georgetown University.

Harvard also conferred honorary degrees on Jennie Chin Hansen, Lawrence S. Bacow, Joy Harjo-Sapulpa, Gustavo Adolfo Dudamel Ramírez and Maria Ressa.

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