James Gates Professor of Physics and Director, Center for String & Particle Theory

Jim Gates

Interview: How to be a theoretical physicist with Jim Gates

Jim Gates is a gifted mathematician, astrophysicist, and philosopher. He is a professor of Physics and Director of the Center for String & Particle Theory at University of Maryland. We chat about his days as a military child, MIT, and he explains complex math — it’s makes sense!.


Below is a summary of our interview:


Imagination is more important than knowledge – Albert Einstein

His Journey

Jim talks about his early days as army brat in Canada to escaping in comic books and how he fell in love with science. We even chat about the night when he learned how to do complex math overnight.

Low Point

Jim talks about his mom dying when he was 11 years old and how he used science fiction to getting away from the pain.

Aha Moment

When Jim arrived at MIT it was the first time he really had to apply himself. He met fellow black scholars including future astronaut Ron McNair and future college president Shirley Ann Jackson.

Jim’s work now  

Jim explains string theory in 60 seconds. You have to listen to really get it 🙂

What’s exciting Jim now

Jim is looking for mathematics in super symmetry that could accurately explain phenomenon in nature. It’s called adinkra which is named after symbols in west Africa. Let’s just say we get real close to real version of the Matrix.

Lightning Round

Book Jim Recommends: Technology and the Dream: Reflections on the Black Experience at MIT, 1941-1999, Superspace: One Thousand and One Lessons in Supersymmetry (For physicists)

Helpful Habit: Persistence

Helpful Person: Jim’s dad, Shirley Jackson, Freeman Coney, Dr. James Young

Internet Resource: The arxiv 

What’s Your Purpose: To do Physics

Where to follow Jim

Jim’s page at University of Maryland

Find Jim Gates on Youtube

Let Jim know how much you enjoyed this interview.

Parting Words

Every one of us is so unique that the universe took 13.8 billion years to create one of you.

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One More Thing

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Derrick Duplessy

Executive Director at Duplessy Foundation
Derrick has coached 500+ executives in 10 years as an executive coach. He runs Duplessy Foundation which is dedicated to creating meaningful careers for everyone. He also hosts Purpose Rockstar, a daily show on iTunes where he shares the career stories of a variety of guests.

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