Astrophysicist + science educator
Florida Institute of Technology African Astronomical Society National Society of Black Physicists American Astronomical Society Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Corporation
Hakeem M. Oluseyi is an internationally recognized astrophysicist, inventor, science communicator, and humanitarian. He has addressed diverse problems in astrophysics including understanding the nature of the dark energy that accelerates our universe, the origin and evolution of the Milky Way galaxy, and the mechanisms by which magnetic fields heat and accelerate astrophysical plasmas. His work in technology development has included developing instruments for space-based astrophysical research and new techniques for manufacturing computer chips. Originating from one of New Orleans' poorest neighborhoods, Hakeem has made it his life's work to educate the poor in America and in the 3rd World. Some of his current science and education projects include being a member of the development team for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which is the highest priority observatory for the U.S.; the UNESCO Earth-Observing Satellite, which is a project between the U.S., Russia, and African nations; and Hands-On Universe Africa, a project to bring real scientific data to science classrooms in underdeveloped nations. About TEDx, x= independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x=independently organized TED event.
As a child, Hakeem Oluseyi never lived in the same state two years in a row. He moved between rough neighborhoods in the American South, like New Orleans’ 9th Ward, Houston's 3rd Ward, and Watts, California, until finally settling in a poor community in rural Mississippi at the age of 13. "As the new kid in the bad neighborhood, I was always immediately challenged upon arrival, which meant fighting,” Hakeem explains. “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!’" Hakeem’s interest in physics continued into high school, where he created a computer program that did relativity calculations. When his program won first prize in physics at the state science fair, judges told him to become a physicist. Since Hakeem didn’t really know what physicists did, he dismissed the idea and chose to enlist in the Navy. But not long after, Hakeem decided to major in physics at Tougaloo College, a small historically black college in Mississippi. Using Physics Now, three degrees in physics and one in mathematics later, Hakeem is a super cool scientist himself–an astrophysicist. Hakeem did research for the first time at a summer program at the University of Georgia. He was pleasantly surprised by the freedom and responsibility he was given and found that he fit well into the research community, even though he was one of only a few African Americans. After finishing up with school, Hakeem worked at one of Silicon Valley's most successful companies and did research on manufacturing computer chips. This work earned him 8 U.S. patents and 4 E.U. patents. Hakeem's inventions can be found in the computer chips you use every day. Hakeem, however, longed for the big ideas of astronomy and astrophysics, and returned to astrophysics research. He worked with the 2011 Nobel Prize winning Supernova Cosmology Project, developing detectors for a planned space-based telescope that will investigate the nature of the dark energy that is accelerating the universe's expansion. Today, he is a member of the team developing the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which is America's top priority observatory. He has worked on developing the LSST's camera and is developing programs for analyzing the data it will collect. In addition to astrophysics, Hakeem also has a passion for communicating science to the public. He is a professor at the Florida Institute of Technology, and a frequent contributor to the Discovery Channel and National Geographic. He has given multiple TED talks and is regularly invited to speak at science forums all around the world. In 2002, through an organization called Cosmos Education, Hakeem began visiting sub-Saharan African schools to inspire young students with science demonstrations. “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,” Hakeem says. Hakeem's drive to spread his love of astronomy globally has brought him into contact with thousands of students from dozens of nations. It also led him to help play a leading role in the formation of the first continent-wide organization of Astronomy professionals in Africa, the African Astronomical Society. He currently leads the One Telescope Project, an initiative to supply each nation in the world with at least one research-grade telescope.