How to make an Astrophysist

Speaker Series

A story that begins with impoverished neighborhoods in Mississippi, the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, and Los Angeles gang affiliations. Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi’s is now a world renowned astrophysicist, cosmologist, inventor, educator, science communicator, author, and humanitarian.

Growing up with an unstable childhood that had young Hakeem moving every year to a new state until the age of 13 where he finally settled in Mississippi. Hakeem found passion in reading the only books that were provided for him, which was a full set of encyclopedias, the occasional library book, and the Holy Bible. At a young age Hakeem’s first science fair project was based on how to code relativity, this project beginning his love for physics and science.

With a high IQ score of 160 and no true direction on where to go in life at the time, Hakeem joined the Navy after being sought after and received his first real chance at exploring calculus. He was discharged due to a rare skin condition and again lacked direction to what path he should take.

Hakeem went back and forth between being in college the final catalyst for him to return was being denied a promotion from janitor to bell hop at a local hotel because he wasn’t bellhop material, he figured, “I cant move up from janitor to bellhop? I’m going back to college!” The irony really set into his story when in 2014 he returned to that same hotel to give the presidential lecture at Tougaloo College.

The University of Georgia sought out Hakeem due to the recommendation from a professor at Tougaloo College. The opportunity of a summer research program set Hakeem’s science career in motion. Hakeem goes on to describe a life changing moment for him during that summer, the small notion of receiving keys to the building he was going to be working in had a profound impact on Hakeem as he states, “Because what is the one thing that you never get as a young black man in this country… Trust. They treated me with trust.”

Through his life experiences Dr. Hakeem has been able to take away some important lessons. He expresses that from a young age he never felt worthy of love and respect but that everyone is worthy of those things “simply because you exist.” He goes on to state, “things like identity, self worth, self belief, are really where the rubber meets the road.” Throughout his life he has been able to hold onto whom he is even while growing up impoverished and with “role models” that were involved with drugs and crime.

While some opportunities presented themselves to Dr. Hakeem, in the end it was what he did with them and how he pursued his better self that brought him success in the science community.

Dr. Oluseyi currently has five degrees, 80 publications, more that 11 patents, and is recognized internationally in his work with astrophysics and computing. He appears regularly on Discovery Network, Science Channel, and National Geographic. As a humanitarian he has contributed to South Africa’s impoverished youth in 2008 by teaching students and passing along his knowledge to better the next generation.

Dr. Oluseyi realizes, he has an ability to make other people do better, people have confided in him time after time, “I thought I was dumb until I met you.” Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi is a true testament to how to succeed with a life that can work hard at holding you back.

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