SAN FRANCISCO -- AAAS, the world's largest general scientific society, today named physicist S. James Gates, Jr. of the University of Maryland as the winner of the 2006 Public Understanding of Science and Technology Award for his outstanding contributions to the popularization of science.
Gates, the John S. Toll Professor of Physics at Maryland, is an engaging lecturer and an enthusiastic guide to the often bewildering world of particle physics and string theory. He has published widely in the technical literature, but also has shown a knack for explaining difficult concepts of physics in clear language. As he once told an interviewer, "I'm one of those scientists that sort of feels that as scientists, we owe our public open reports on what it is that we do in their name."
Gates says he developed an interest in physics and math when he was about eight years old and his father brought home a book about space travel. "And in this book I learned that the stars in the sky were not just lights but places to go," Gates said. "And suddenly my universe got very much larger." He learned that science and technology might provide a way to get such places. Science also provides a way to understand the cosmos, a challenge that Gates has been pursuing through his studies of such topics as supersymmetrical particles, strings and unified theories of the sort envisioned by Albert Einstein.
When Gates was named the first Toll professor at Maryland, he became the first African American to hold an endowed chair in physics at a major research university in the United States. He received his B.S. degree in mathematics and physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1973 and his Ph.D. degree in elementary particle physics and quantum field theory in 1977, also from MIT. Gates has held teaching appointments at MIT, Harvard, the California Institute of Technology and Howard University in addition to the University of Maryland. He has served as
Contact: Lonnie Shekhtman
American Association for the Advancement of Science