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Theoretical Physicist Jim Gates Awarded Mendel Medal

June 7, 2013

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

Renowned University of Maryland theoretical physicist Sylvester James "Jim" Gates, Jr., Ph.D., has been awarded the recipient of the 2013 Mendel Medal by Villanova UniversityCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – Renowned University of Maryland theoretical physicist Sylvester James "Jim" Gates, Jr., Ph.D., has been awarded the 2013 Mendel Medal by Villanova University in recognition of his influential work in supersymmetry, supergravity and string theory, as well as his advocacy for science and science education in the United States and abroad. The Mendel Medal, established in 1928 by the Board of Trustees of Villanova University, honors pioneering scientists who have demonstrated, by their lives and their standing before the world as scientists, that there is no intrinsic conflict between science and religion.

Gates received The National Medal of Science, the nation's highest award in science, earlier this year. He is the current John S. Toll Professor of Physics and Director of the Center for String & Particle Theory at The University of Maryland. Additionally, Gates is a University System of Maryland Regents Professor, University of Maryland Distinguished Scholar-Teacher, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also serves on the U.S. President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and on the Maryland State Board of Education. In 2013, Gates also was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, becoming the first African-American physicist so recognized in its 150-year history.

Villanova University's Mendel Medal honors 19th century Augustinian friar and scientist Gregor Johann Mendel, Abbot of the Augustinian Monastery, Brünn, Austria, (now Brno, the Czech Republic), best known as "the father of modern genetics" for his discovery of the celebrated laws of heredity that bear his name. Villanova is one of only two Augustinian Catholic institutions of higher education in the country. Past recipients of the Mendel Medal have included Nobel Laureates, outstanding medical researchers, pioneers in physics, astrophysics and chemistry, and noted scientist-theologians.

"Villanova University is delighted to honor Professor Gates for his work as an internationally known advocate for science and science education," said the Rev. Kail Ellis, OSA, Ph.D., Villanova University's Vice President for Academic Affairs. "In addition to his outstanding scientific achievements, Professor Gates believes that faith enables science – as it allows us to contemplate our relationship with each other and with the Creator – while acknowledging that science is essential for the survival of our species in a world beset with climate change."

Added Fr. Ellis, "Professor Gates has said that science is ultimately also 'an act of faith—faith that we will be capable of understanding the way the universe is put together.' This is the foundation on which the Mendel Medal was established."

Professor Gates will deliver the 2013 Mendel Medal Lecture, "On the Uncertainty of Disbelief," at 2 p.m., Friday, Nov. 15, in the Villanova Room of the Connelly Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Gates has avidly and widely promoted science and science education through many different forums and media, including as a frequent guest on The Public Broadcast System's NOVA productions, in popular videos about the science of NFL football and NHL hockey, and as a featured presenter at the World Science Festivals. His 2012 interview on the NPR show "On Being with Krista Tippet" was heard by a member of nominating committee and led to his nomination for the Mendel Medal. 

Gates has delivered the annual Karplus Lecture to the National Science Teachers Association and has received the Public Understanding of Science and Technology Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Gates also is a leader in improving education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields to attract more students, to these critical fields. He serves on the technical advisory committee for the American Association of Universities (AAU) STEM undergraduate education initiative.


Gates' 2012 interview on the NPR show "On Being with Krista Tippett" led to his nomination for the Mendel Medal.  A re-edited version of the show became available online today and will be aired over member stations this week. Listen now: