Oluseyi is a professor of space science in the Florida Institute of Technology. Among the most recognizable astrophysicists in America, he is also noted for appearing on science shows Outrageous Acts of Science and How the Universe Works.
James Edward Plummer, Jr.
Born in Louisiana as James Edward Plummer, Jr., Oluseyi spent his childhood with his mother, traveling four different times. Each time, it was in a rough, inner city neighborhood.
Eventually, after settling in a predominant black small town in Mississippi, Oluseyi would feel safe, since the community was not impoverished and was self-sufficient on farming and fishing. Since he lived in a farm owned by his grandmother, he developed work ethic by doing hard work that would influence his productivity later in life.
Reading became a key part of his childhood, since encyclopedias would keep him company throughout these times. Eventually, he took an interest in science and would go on to win first place in a science fair.
Eventually, he would serve in the Navy where he would go through a difficult curriculum in which only a few sailors graduate. Although he would be among the few who passed, he was still disqualified due to a sensitive skin condition that afflicted him throughout his childhood.
After some struggles with finding his place, Oluseyi eventually went to Stanford University where he would receive guidance from his advisor Sally Rider, who was the first American woman to fly in space.
Hakeem M. Oluseyi
While in Stanford, Oluseyi decided to adopt a new name. So, he chose Hakeem, which means “wise;” Muata is Swahili for “he speaks the truth;”and Oluseyi is Yoruba for “God has done this.” In an effort to appeal to his blackness, Oluseyi named himself with a pan-African identity, by using languages from Arabic, Swahili, and Yoruba.
His name also makes him unique in the space scientific community, since the pan-African identity enables him to challenge any stereotypes that people might have held about African-Americans. His African ancestry is important for his goal in providing outreach to African nations to research astronomy, which he had done so by doing a lecture tour through South Africa in 2012.
After graduating Stanford, he worked in Silicon Valley by developing patents, such as a new generation of transistors in silicon chips that would eventually be used in computer chips. However, he felt uninterested and decided to work for the Supernova Cosmology Project working on new satellites. He then transitioned from technology to math during the course of his career.
Since he came from insurmountable odds as a black youth living in an unstable environment to becoming a well-known astrophysicist, the name itself provides a story, especially since Oluyesi said that he was a story-teller. Since his name means “wise,” it can be without a doubt seen that he was able to live up to that name. While his middle name means “he speaks the truth,” it is clear that he will continue to strife to speak the truth by pursuing it throughout the cosmos.
Image Attribution: “Hakeem Oluseyi: Star Search.” Chicago Humanities Festival. YouTube. Dec. 2, 2014.