For Hakeem Muata Oluseyi (Oh-lou-shey-eee), being named a Visiting Robinson Professor at George Mason University represents the natural progression of his career.
The distinction, first awarded at Mason in 1984, recognizes outstanding faculty dedicated to undergraduate teaching and whose teaching and scholarship concern broad and fundamental intellectual issues.
“My life was transformed through education, and it helped transform my entire community,” Oluseyi said. “So I see the power that we have as academics to transform lives.”
Oluseyi, one of the nation’s best-known astrophysicists and president-elect of the National Society of Black Physicists, is the embodiment of that transformation.
His roots are in some of the toughest neighborhoods around the country, including Houston’s Third Ward, New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, rural Mississippi and South Central Los Angeles.
In his memoir, “A Quantum Life: My Unlikely Journey from the Street to the Stars,” Oluseyi recounts how some of his relatives were part of the notorious Crips gang, and how by 9 years old he was drawn into criminal activity.
But he also was a star gazer and a reader, he wrote, and eventually overcame the pull of that lifestyle and graduated from Stanford University with a PhD in physics.
Oluseyi was previously part of the faculty at the Florida Institute of Technology, and from 2016 to 2019 was the space science education lead in NASA’s Space Mission Directorate, where he provided strategic leadership and management for the directorate’s investments in science education and communications.
His expertise has been featured in media outlets such as National Public Radio, CNN, ABC, NBC, and National Geographic. He was even interviewed by world-famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on his “Star Talk” podcast.
Oluseyi also appears as a host and scientific authority on Science Channel television shows, “How the Universe Works,” “Spaces Deepest Secrets,” and “Strip the Cosmos.”
“He is a renowned astrophysicist whose work has not only been exciting but who has been, and will continue to be, inspiring to students around the country,” Mason Provost Mark Ginsberg said. “Now, he brings his inspirational abilities to Mason to help the next generation of astrophysicists and astronomers.”
Oluseyi will begin teaching classes in the Spring 2022 semester. Until then he will participate by interacting with students and faculty, and being a visible presence on campus, Ginsberg said.
“Having Hakeem as a Visiting Mason Professor is a great honor for us and a great opportunity for the university,” Ginsberg said. “We’re delighted he is going to join us.”
“The joy of my career as an academic is working with undergrads and helping people to improve their lives,” Oluseyi said, adding, "Mason’s student body is my target audience—working-class people that are aspirational and ready to be tomorrow’s leaders. I’m hoping to influence them.”