|Image Source: Seminar link below|
I saw Dr. Oluseyi speak at the National Society of Black Physicists, Austin, Texas in 2011 (where I met Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg). I signed up to hear him speak again today, obviously scheduled as a pick-me-up for graduate students before midterms. We could all use it.
And there, at Tougaloo College, you had a breakthrough.
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.
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 PhD advisor, Art Walker, who was also the PhD advisor of Sally Ride. Just being in his presence showed me a different model of how I could be.
But in the end, Art’s support changed it for me. It was like two different lives. I ended up changing my name from James Edward Plummer to reflect how my life had changed so drastically. I wanted my middle name to reflect how I am. So my middle name is Muata and it means “He seeks the truth.” I wanted my first name to reflect what I want to become. My first name Hakeem means “wisdom.” And my last name is from the West African Yoruba people, and it means “God has done this.”
Rise of a gangsta nerd: Fellows Friday with Hakeem Oluseyi, TED Blog
NC A&T Seminar link: NCAT.edu/oluseyi