News from the Chair
Professor Gates on Supersymmetry and Music

Sylvester James "Jim" Gates, Jr. participated in a live webcast event on June 4, 2014 at 7:00 pm ET. His talk, From the Mathematics of Supersymmetry to the Music of Arnold Schoenberg, was a part of the Perimeter Institute's Public Lecture Series. The webcast is available at,, and was followed with an online chat discussion on Perimeter Institute's website.

Physics Can Explain Income Inequality, Finds Victor Yakovenko

Victor Yakovenko described his econophysics work in an episode of the TV series Through the Wormhold with Morgan Freeman on the Science Channel. The episode, Is Poverty Genetic? , aired on Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 10:00 p.m. and will repeat several times, see the schedule at:

The appearance on the Science Channel follows coverage of Victor's econophysics work in Science Magazine last month it he the special Science of Inequalitly issue.

Robert W. Zwanzig (April 9, 1928- May 15, 2014)

Robert W. Zwanzig, Distinguished University Professor and Professor Emeritus in the Institute for Physical Science and Technology, died quietly in his sleep on May 15. Bob Zwanzig had a very distinguished career as a teacher and researcher in the field of statistical physics. He joined the faculty of the University of Maryland in 1968 and retired in 1988, after which he joined the Chemical Physics Division of the National Institutes of Health. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1972, was awarded the Debye Prize from the American Chemical Society in 1976 and received the Langmuir Award from the American Chemical Society in 1984.

A brilliant theoretical physicist and chemist, Bob was well known for his ability to describe a wide variety of physical phenomena using very sophisticated model systems of his own invention, and he possessed the mathematical skills to obtain results from them with striking clarity. His deep insights into equilibrium and non-equilibrium statistical mechanics have influenced these fields profoundly. Bob's 1954 paper on thermodynamic perturbation theory, published in the Journal of Chemical Physics when he was in his mid-20s, provides one of the foundations of modern computational thermodynamics.

Bob may best be known for his “projection operator method,” which allows one to obtain equations for time-dependent distributions and correlation functions in a very simple and direct way, showing that a technical breakthrough can lead to a deeper conceptual understanding of the behavior of many-particle systems. This method continues to be widely used by workers of all generations in his field.

Bob Zwanzig was a great teacher of graduate students and mentor to younger scientists. With insights and skills that were greatly admired, in many instances he helped his colleagues to successfully find their way in their own research efforts. He will be greatly missed.

Professors Drake, Gates named Distinguished University Professors

James Drake

Two members of the Department of Physics have been named Distinguished University Professors. This designation is the campus’ highest academic honor, reserved for those whose scholarly achievements “have brought distinction to the University of Maryland.”

Professor James F. Drake, a plasma theorist, received his PhD from UCLA and had research appointments there before joining UMD as a postdoc in 1978. He became a full professor in 1990, jointly with the Institute for Physical Sciences and Technology. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Geophysical Union. In 2010, he received the very prestigious James Clerk Maxwell Prize for Plasma Physics from the American Physical Society. He is co-director of the Joint Space-Science Institute, a research partnership between the Astronomy and Physics departments of the University of Maryland (UMD) and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Professor Drake is a well-reviewed teacher and excellent overall communicator, having received the Popular Writing Award of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society. With colleagues from NASA, he helped create a video highlighting a 2011 paper that described the edge of the solar system as an effervescent wonder of magnetic bubbles nearly 100 million miles wide:

Professor Drake continues to investigate the structure of the heliopause, the boundary between the environment of the sun and the local interstellar medium. In addition, he is currently working with colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, on magnetic energy's production of intensely energetic particles that are both scientifically intriguing and dangerous to manned space missions and Earth-orbiting satellites.

Sylvester James “Jim” Gates, Jr. received his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1977 and was an assistant professor of mathematics there before joining the UMD faculty in 1984. He was recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences. At the April 2014 induction ceremony, NAS President Ralph Cicerone cited Gates' groundbreaking work at the interface of information theory and superstring theory, and for efforts to engage the public, as Gates signed the membership book, becoming the first African-American physicist included in the 150 year-long NAS history.

Jim Gates

Professor Gates is the John S. Toll Professor of Physics and Director of the Center for String and Particle Theory at the University of Maryland. He is a UMD Distinguished Scholar-Teacher, a University System of Maryland Regents Professor, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Harvard Foundation’s 2014 Scientist of the Year. He serves on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and the Maryland State Board of Education. He chaired the Department of Physics at Howard University from 1991-93, and holds honorary degrees/appointments from the University of Western Australia, Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies, Loyola University of Chicago, NYU Polytechnic Institute and Georgetown University.

He received the National Medal of Science at The White House in 2013.

He has been featured frequently on the PBS television program NOVA as an expert on physics, and has completed a DVD of 24 half-hour lectures that make the complexities of theoretical physics understandable to laypeople. In 2013, Villanova University awarded him the Mendel Medal, which honors scientists whose lives and work demonstrate that there is no intrinsic conflict between science and religion.

Physics Faculty and Staff Honored at CMNS Academic Festival

The Board of Visitors Awards and CMNS Awards was presented at the college's Academic Festival on May 2, 2014, in the James A. Yorke Rotunda. Award recipients from Physics include Christopher Monroe - BOV Distinguished Faculty Award, Carter Hall - Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching and Lorraine DeSalvo - Dean's Outstanding Employee Award.

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Department of Physics

University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742-4111
Phone: 301.405.3401
Fax: 301.314.9525