Dr. S. James Gates, Jr., a member of the Maryland State Board of Education, will be among 12 outstanding researchers to be awarded with this year’s National Medal of Science, the White House has announced.
The John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland in College Park, Dr. Gates serves as the Director of the Center for String and Particle Theory at the university. The National Medal of Science—along with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation—are the highest honors bestowed by the U.S. Government upon scientists, engineers, and inventors. Recipients will receive their awards early this year.
“I am proud to honor these inspiring American innovators,” President Obama said in making the announcement. “They represent the ingenuity and imagination that has long made this Nation great—and they remind us of the enormous impact a few good ideas can have when these creative qualities are unleashed in an entrepreneurial environment.”
The recognition from the White House is as unexpected as it is gratifying, Dr. Gates said. “I have been blown away,” he added. “What a nice surprise.”
Dr. Gates remembers clearly the day that science came into his life – when his mother took him to see a movie about astronauts, rockets and space travel when he was four-years old in Newfoundland, Canada in 1954. By the time he was eight, fueled by books brought home by his father, he was committed to becoming a scientist. This interest was aided by his 11th grade teacher, Freeman Coney, while the family lived in Orlando, FL during 1968.
Appointed by Governor O’Malley to the State Board in 2009, Dr. Gates brought with him a special interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education at the PreK-12 level. He is a powerful advocate for improving opportunities for all students.
Dr. Gates received Bachelor of Science degrees in 1973, in both mathematics and physics, as well as his Ph.D. in 1977 in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He also completed postgraduate studies at both Harvard University and the California Institute of Technology (CalTech).
Dr. Gates is the author or co-author on more than 200 scientific publications, and the book L'arte della Fisica (The Art of Physics) released in 2006 in Italian only. His career also includes numbers of appearances in video science documents, such as The Fabric of the Cosmos and Mankind: The Story of all of Us. Another of his works for non-scientists was Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality, a popular-level DVD series, also released in 2006 by The Teaching Company. Dr. Gates has delivered many public addresses on topics at the boundary of education, diversity, science, culture, and religion, always in the effort to inform the public about his field of theoretical physics.
Since 1972, Dr. Gates has continuously taught science or mathematics at the university level at CalTech, Howard University, MIT, Gustavus Adolphus College, and the University of Maryland. He has also supervised a number of research internships for high school students and co-authored research papers with some of them. In the spring of 2009, he was appointed to the U.S. President's Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST) and serves as co-chair of its working group on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) preeminence for the nation. Additionally, Dr. Gates holds fellowship status in the National Society of Black Physicists, the American Physics Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (South Africa). As well, he is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Science, the American Philosophical Society, and, in England, the Institute of Physics. Dr. Gates resides in Prince George's County.
The National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959 and is administered by the White House by the National Science Foundation. Awarded annually, the medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering. A committee of Presidential appointees selects nominees on the basis of their extraordinary knowledge in and contributions to chemistry, engineering, computing, mathematics, or the biological, behavioral/social, and physical sciences.