World-renowned physicist Sylvester James Gates Jr. inspires Lipscomb community with public lecture, time on campus

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On Thursday, April 13, world-renowned physicist Sylvester James Gates Jr. graced Lipscomb University with his presence for a public lecture titled "The 1,358,954,496 Matrix Elements to get from SUSY Diff Eq’s to Pictures, Codes, Card Games, Music, Computers and Back Again.”

“When Dr. Gates did his public lecture, Stowe hall was completely full of students and they just wanted to take pictures with him and shake his hand,” said Florah Mhlanga, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. “You could tell our students were both appreciative and inspired by his work in the sciences,”

Gates is an American theoretical physicist best known for his work on super symmetry, supergravity and superstring theory. He is currently a University System Regents professor and the John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is also the director of the String and Particle Theory Center; affiliate professor of mathematics; and serves on the National Commission on Forensic Science, and on the Maryland State Board of Education. He has also served on the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

In 2013, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, becoming the first African-American physicist so recognized in its 150-year history. That same year, Gates was awarded the Mendel Medal by Villanova University in recognition of his influential work and the National Medal of Science, the highest award given to scientists in the U.S. In 2014, he was also named Harvard University Foundation’s ‘‘Scientist of the Year.’’ 

While on campus for his evening speech, Gates also presented the Keynote at the 6th Annual Student Scholars Symposium titled “What Did St. Augustine, Galileo and Einstein have to say about Faith vs. Science?”

The first Student Scholars Symposium featured 51 students and 35 abstracts and has grown today to feature 270 students and 150 abstracts. The Symposium is open to all students and is designed to give students a taste of professional academic conferences as well as an avenue to share research/ creative activities. The event also has plenary sessions and invites guest speakers such as Dr. Gates to visit.

“The most valuable part of having Dr. Gates on campus is he is a man who is ridiculously accomplished,” Mhlanga said. “He is a distinguished scientist in his own field of theoretical physics. I think for students who feel like they have big shoes to fill, having Dr. Gates on campus incentivizes and inspires their hard work and dedication because although their studies are difficult, but it will pay off in the future. That they can accomplish great things and be the next Dr. Gates of the future.”