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UMD's Gates Awarded Nation's Top Science Honor

January 28, 2013

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

Photo Credit: Ryan K Morris/National Science & Technology Medals FoundationPresident Obama presented the National Medal of Science to Gates in a White House ceremony on Friday, Feb. 1. Gates is one of 12 scientists to receive this award, the nation’s top honor for scientists. Watch the ceremony here.

Update: In January 2013, Gates was appointed to the position of University System of Maryland (USM) Regents Professor. The award, among the System's most prominent faculty recognitions, honors Gates' exceptional academic and research achievements.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – President Obama has named University of Maryland Professor of Physics Sylvester James (Jim) Gates as one of this year’s recipients of the National Medal of Science. The National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation are the highest honors bestowed by the United States Government upon scientists, engineers, and inventors. This year’s 12 Medal of Science and 11 Medal of Technology and Innovation awardees will receive their awards at a White House ceremony in early 2013.

“I am proud to honor these inspiring American innovators,” President Obama said in a White House statement announcing the winners of the two awards.  “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 National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959 and is administered for 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. The National Medal of Technology and Innovation was created by statute in 1980 and is administered for the White House by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Patent and Trademark Office.

“I am so very humbled by the support I have received from the University of Maryland over the years and without which my receiving of this honor would have never come to pass,” said Gates, the John S. Toll Professor of Physics and Director of the Center for String and Particle Theory at Maryland.” Thank you all for allowing me to represent our campus,” he said in an email to UMD President Wallace Loh and other campus officials.

“Congratulations [Jim] on being honored with the National Medal of Science,” said President Loh.  “All of us at the University of Maryland are thrilled and proud of your recognition. And, of course, the entire University community basks in the reflected glow of this prestigious award.”

Gates is known for his groundbreaking work in supersymmetry and supergravity, areas closely related to superstring theory. In 1983, he co-authored the seminal book "Superspace or 1001 Lessons in Supersymmetry. He also is widely known for his work popularizing science, promoting the importance of research and science education and enlightening young people on the fun, wonder and opportunities of careers in science and engineering. In 2007, the American Association for the Advancement of Science honored Gates with its Public Understanding of Science and Technology Award.  

Gates is a member of the President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and also has served as a consultant for multiple U.S. government agencies (National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Department of Defense), corporations (Educational Testing Service, Time-Life Books) and speaks nationally and internationally to diverse audiences.

This year’s Medal of Science recipients include:

  • Dr. Allen Bard, University of Texas at Austin, TX
  • Dr. Sallie Chisholm, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA
  • Dr. Sidney Drell, Stanford University, CA
  • Dr. Sandra Faber, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Dr. Sylvester James Gates, University of Maryland, MD
  • Dr. Solomon Golomb, University of Southern California, CA
  • Dr. John Goodenough, University of Texas at Austin, TX
  • Dr. M. Frederick Hawthorne, University of Missouri, MO
  • Dr. Leroy Hood, Institute for Systems Biology, WA
  • Dr. Barry Mazur, Harvard University, MA
  • Dr. Lucy Shapiro, Stanford University School of Medicine, CA
  • Dr. Anne Treisman, Princeton University, NJ

Listen to Gates discuss 'Uncovering the Codes for Reality' on On Being with Krista Tippett.

Find out why Gates decided to pursue a science career and learn about his research in an interview with AAAS Kids News.