Renowned physicist, speaker inaugurates Rayborn series


The University of Southern Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy’s inaugural Rayborn Lecture series will begin at 6:30 p.m. on April 7 in Bennett Auditorium. The first speaker of the free event is Sylvester Gates, renowned physicist and director of the String and Particle Theory Center.

Gates, who has written more than 200 research papers and been involved in dozens of documentaries, will speak on the theory of super symmetry.

Chris Winstead, professor and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, will
introduce Gates at the event. Winstead said Gates is known for his ability to explain complicated physics theories to the general public.

“This is not going to be a professional physics talk,” Winstead said. “This is a talk aimed at the public.”

His biographical page on teaching company The Great Course’s website listed a testimonial section which described his skills in public speaking.

According to the provided testimonial, “Dr. Gates does a great job in presenting a very fascinating, cutting-edge topic.”

The selection of Gates as the inaugural speaker at the Rayborn Lecture came about due to his national fame.

“We have a little of a personal connection there already, and Dr. Gates is such a well-known, well-respected physicist,” Winstead said. “There aren’t many physicists that get their own commercials.”

The Department of Physics and Astonomy created the lecture series using donations from former physics professor Grayson Rayborn and his wife, Jane Dishong Rayborn. The goal of the series is to allow the university to bring in nationally prominent speakers in the field of physics.

“We need to allow our students to interact with these people,” Rayborn said. “That’s probably number one for me.”

Winstead said it is important for students to look at successful people like Gates and believe they can achieve success.

“You meet somebody on one of these pedestals, and hopefully it helps you understand, ‘Hey, he was a really nice guy! Maybe I can do something like that,’” Winstead said.

Winstead said he believes these types of events will help give the university national and even international exposure.

“It’s one more way we can try to expand people’s knowledge about Southern Miss,” Winstead said.