10 Things To Know About NASA Astrophysicist Hakeem Oluseyi

Written by Ann Brown
Dec 18, 2018

Astrophysicist, educator, and humanitarian Hakeem Oluseyi is making science cool again. Besides being a well-known figure in the field, Oluseyi is a member of the team developing the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which is America’s top priority observatory. He is also using his public presence to encourage more people of color to enter STEM fields. And, he co-authored the children’s popular science book “Discovery Spaceopedia: The Complete Guide to Everything Space.”

“Oluseyi, 49, is one of the most popular scientists in a field that deals with the otherworldly. From his position as a distinguished professor of physics and space sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology to hosting programs such as Discovery’s “Outrageous Acts of Science and How the Universe Works,” Oluseyi is inspiring generations — both younger and older — with his exciting approach to subject matter that can be quite complex,” the Undefeated reported.

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Here are 10 other things you might not know about Oluseyi:

1.HBCU Head Start

Oluseyi attended HBCU Tougaloo College where he earned Bachelor of Science degrees in physics and mathematics. He went on to earn his MS and Ph.D. degrees in physics from Stanford University under the mentorship of the late Professor Arthur B. C. Walker Jr.  “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,” Temmy Balogun reported.

It was at Tougaloo he had a breakthrough about his future.

“Yes. These three grad students from MIT and Harvard came to Tougaloo, where I was one of two physics students in 1986. They were all black physics students from the Cambridge area – and each of them thought they were the only one! They came to realize that kids from certain communities just have no idea that physics as a career exists. They decided they’d start the National Council of Black Physics Students, to help the most down-and-out kids in the country. So where did they go? Mississippi. They showed up on our campus,” he told TED Blog.

He continued: “Because of them, I ended up meeting recruiters from Stanford University that ended up accepting me to Stanford for grad school. In all of Stanford’s history, at that time, there were only two black professors in all of the six schools of natural sciences and mathematics. One was my Ph.D. advisor, Art Walker, who was also the Ph.D. advisor of Sally Ride. Just being in his presence showed me a different model of how I could be.”

2. Neighborhood Didn’t Break Him

Oluseyi grew up in some rough neighbors. When he was young, he never lived in the same state two years consecutively. And he toughed it out in such neighborhoods as New Orleans’ 9th Ward; Houston’s 3rd Ward; and Watts and Inglewood in California. At age 13 he and his mother settled in rural Mississippi.

“As the new kid in the bad neighborhood, I was always immediately challenged upon arrival, which meant fighting,” Oluseyi told American Physical Society. “I was not interested in this, so I spent a lot of time indoors reading and watching PBS nature shows. I discovered Jacques Cousteau on TV and Albert Einstein in my reading. The effects of relativity just knocked my socks off! I did everything I could to get my head around this stuff. I thought, ‘Man! Scientists are super cool!’”

3.When He Got The Physics Bug

During high school, Oluseyi created a computer program that did relativity calculations — and it won first prize in physics at the state science fair. And the judges encouraged Oluseyi to become a physicist.

4.Difficult But He Did It

While in grad school at Stanford University, Oluseyi said he felt a little over his head.

“It was extremely difficult,” he told the American Physical Society. “Whereas I had not even heard of calculus until after I graduated high school and was in the Navy, my Stanford classmates all had calculus early in their high school careers. Moreover, the totality of my entire undergraduate physics education only amounted to about three semesters of the typical Stanford undergrad’s coursework.

5.When Silicon Valley Called

Following graduation, Oluseyi worked at one of Silicon Valley’s most successful companies and did research on manufacturing computer chips. Through his work there, he earned eight U.S. patents and four E.U. patents. And in fact, his inventions can be found in the computer chips used every day.

6.Nobel Prize

Oluseyi worked with the 2011 Nobel Prize winning Supernova Cosmology Project. He developed detectors for a planned space-based telescope that will be used to explore the nature of the dark energy that is speeding up the universe’s expansion.

7.Teacher, Teacher: Oluseyi is a professor at the Florida Institute of Technology. He is also a frequent contributor to the Discovery Channel and National Geographic.

8.African Vision

Through the Cosmos Education organization, Oluseyi has visited sub-Saharan African schools to inspire young students to consider STEM careers.

“Engaging with a down-to-earth, successful scientist of African heritage encourages the students and lets them see that someone very similar to them can make it as a scientist,” he said.

9.Passing It On

The scientist formed the African Astronomical Society and the One Telescope Project, an initiative to supply each nation in the world with at least one research-grade telescope.

10.Military Man

Oluseyi served in the U.S. Navy from 1984 to 1986. And actually, he credits the Navy with teaching him algebra

About Ann Brown

Ann Brown has been a freelance writer for more than two decades. Her work has appeared in CocoaFab, Black Enterprise, Essence, MadameNoire.com, New York Trend, Upscale, Moguldom, AFKInsider, The Network Journal, Playboy, Africa Strictly Business, For Harriet, Pathfinders, Black Meetings & Tourism, Frequent Flier, Girl, Honey, Source Sports, The Source, Black Radio Exclusive, and Launch. She studied journalism at New York University and has her B.A. Born in New York, Ann lived in Praia, Cabo Verde, for nearly a decade. She created “An American In Cabo Verde,” a Facebook community.

December 18, 2018 by Ann Brown

Category: GN, Tech.Tag: NASA, STEM career

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