When you do a quick research on Hakeem Oluseyi, you find that he is referred to as an American. But he is truly from Nigerian descent and we are sure he is proud of it. Although he was born in New Orleans, the United States with an entirely different name supposedly American, at a time of self-discovery, he changed those names to a name that shows he truly connects to his root.
An article about him on Society of Physics students provides that he adopted the first name, Hakeem because it means “wisdom,” and a new middle name, Muata, because it translates “He seeks the truth.”
This is indeed a man with a scary C.V with breath-taking achievements and one every youth can learn a lot from. His story is indeed inspiring.
A product of a broken home like most children in the society today. But instead of blaming his parents, he found his voice and concentrated his forces on what he truly loves. He was four when his parents divorced and was in custody of his mom. His child-hood days was full of exodus. His mother moved to a different state along the southern border of the US every year. He lived in some of the country’s toughest neighborhoods including the 9th Ward of New Orleans; Los Angeles, California; Inglewood California; South Park, Houston, Texas; and Third Ward, Houston, Texas before settling in rural Mississippi a month before he turned 13 years old.
He completed middle school and high school in the East Jasper School District graduating as his high school’s valedictorian in 1985. Oluseyi served in the U.S. Navy from 1984 to 1986. He credits the Navy with teaching him algebra.
After leaving the Navy with an honorable discharge, Oluseyi enrolled in Tougaloo College where he earned Bachelor of Science degrees in physics and mathematics. He earned MS and Ph.D. degrees in physics from Stanford University under the mentorship of the late Professor Arthur B. C. Walker Jr. from whom he learned experimental space research. Under Walker’s tutelage, Oluseyi helped to design, build, calibrate, and launch the Multi-Spectral Solar Telescope Array, which pioneered normal incidence extreme ultraviolet and soft x-ray imaging of the Sun’s transition region and corona. Wow! I’m lost.
In 2007 till date, he is a professor of Physics & Space Sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology. His academic rank is Distinguished Research Professor. He is temporarily stationed at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC where he is the Space Sciences Education Manager for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate via the Intergovernmental Personnel Act Mobility Program.
His best known scientific contributions are research on the transfer of mass and energy through the Sun’s atmosphere, the development of space-borne observatories for studying astrophysical plasmas and dark energy, and the development of transformative technologies in ultraviolet optics, detectors, computer chips, and ion propulsion.
Oluseyi appears as a commentator and scientific authority on Science Channel television shows including How the Universe Works, Outrageous Acts of Science, and Strip the Cosmos. He lent his voice and scientific expertise to the award-winning science education video game ExoTrex: A Space Science Adventure Game in collaboration with Dig-It! Games.
He co-authored the children’s popular science book Discovery Spaceopedia: The Complete Guide to Everything Space.
Words of wisdom
According to Hakeem, “The secret is to jump on every opportunity that comes your way, every moment of serendipity”
While he was in college, students from Harvard and MIT frequented his school and informed him and his colleagues about a national conference for black physicists. Hakeem was so interested. He went to the conference where he retrieved the information about the top graduate schools and what one who is interested needs to do to get in. He was also introduced to the recruiters. According to him via a secondary source, “I got to know the recruiters and applied to graduate school; I was accepted at almost every school where I knew someone.” This seem to me as a situation whereby opportunity met preparedness.
He further admonishes youths never to listen to people who try to stop them from doing what they want to do. While he was a graduate student at Stanford, he learned about classism— he believes that even being white wasn’t good enough if you didn’t talk right and dress right. He wanted to run back to the ghetto. He recalled that one professor tried to get him kicked out. But he learned how to interact with a new social class. He got mostly A’s in his graduate courses. His PhD thesis won a national award.
In the end, he listened to only those people who wanted to support him and he is exactly where he had always pictured in his mind.