WMU Home > WMU News >

WMU News

Popular physicist, string theory expert speaks Friday

April 7, 2008

KALAMAZOO--One of the nation's top string theory experts will be in Kalamazoo this week to give two talks at Western Michigan University and meet with a small group of WMU students.

Dr. Sylvester J. Gates Jr., director of the Center for String and Particle Theory and the John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland, College Park, will present the free, public talk from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, April 11, in the Fetzer Center's Kirsch Auditorium. A question and answer period and reception will follow the presentation.

A particle physicist, Gates has done pioneering work on the mathematically elegant extension of current particle physics known as supersymmetry, or SUSY. In his public talk on "SUSY and the Lords of the Ring," he will address supersymmetry as an integral part of supergravity and string theory that is ultimately aimed toward creating a unified description of all physics.

The 'ring' in Gates' talk refers to the Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful particle accelerator that is nearing completion in Geneva and is expected to dramatically advance understanding of the universe's fundamental structure. When the collider goes online in May, it will smash together high-energy protons in two counter-rotating beams in a search for signatures of supersymmetry, dark matter and the origins of mass.

While in Kalamazoo, Gates also will present the keynote talk, titled "Is There a Way to Use Research Science to Teach Science?," for the spring meeting of the Michigan Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers, which is being held at WMU.

Gates is known for his willingness to share knowledge with students and educators as well as his ability to communicate the complex ideas at the forefront of theoretical physics to a general audience.

He coauthored the 1983 book "Superspace, or One Thousand and One Lessons in Supersymmetry," which is one of only two comprehensive text books in the field. In addition, he has reached a wide audience through lectures, a popular 2007 DVD series called "Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality," and numerous appearances in physics-related television programs airing on the Public Broadcasting Service.

Gates joined the University of Maryland faculty in 1984, becoming its first John S. Toll Professor in Physics in 1998 and the director of its Center for String and Particle Theory in 2002. He previously taught at MIT, and has returned there twice to work with freshmen in the same minority student program by which he had originally entered the university.

The recipient of numerous prestigious awards, Gates is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society and the National Society of Black Physicists, of which he is a past president. He was instrumental in developing doctoral programs in physics at Hampton University, Florida A&M, the University in Tallahassee and Howard University, where he also served two years as professor and chair of physics.

Gates has done postgraduate studies at Harvard University and the California Institute of Technology. He earned a doctoral degree in physics as well as bachelors degrees in physics and mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was the first person do write a thesis on supersymmetry.

The visit to Kalamazoo by physicist Sylvester J. Gates is being sponsored by WMU's Department of Physics and Graduate College and the Michigan section of the American Association of Physics Teachers. For more information, contact Dr. Charles Henderson, assistant professor of physics and science education, at charles.henderson@wmich.edu or (269) 387-4951.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400