Astrophysicist, educator Dr. Hakeem OIuseyi speaks at TJC | TJC

Astrophysicist, educator Dr. Hakeem OIuseyi speaks at TJC

Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi delivered an inspiring message to Tyler Junior College students on Thursday: “You have to believe that you can make it, and you have to be empowered with help to get there.”

During his appearance as the spring speaker for TJC’s Powerful Voices series, Oluseyi said, “I hope that by telling my story, people will also see themselves and find a way through academia and achieve their dreams.”
Raised in some of the toughest neighborhoods in the country, Oluseyi moved 11 times as a child and struggled with family issues.
“I was born in New Orleans and moved to a different state and city for the first 13 years of my life: Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans and then rural Mississippi, where I lived from the time I was 14 until age 24,” he said.
Despite his tough upbringing on the streets, Oluseyi’s healthy escape was his love of science and reading.
“I always had my nose in a book,” he said. “I came across an old set of encyclopedias and read them all the way through, from A to Z.”
He was especially fascinated with Einstein’s theory of relativity, which spurred him to pursue science as a vocation.
“No one in my family graduated from high school before me,” he said. “My father dropped out of school when he was 9. My mother dropped out when she was 16, and so did my sister when she was 16.”
Presented with compelling reasons to quit at every turn, he persevered.

TJC Oluseyi group

From left: Dr. Juan E. Mejia, TJC president and CEO; Caitlin Drahem, TJC student life coordinator; Mitch Andrews, TJC vice president for institutional advancement; Dr. Beau Hartweg, TJC Earth and Space Science Center director; Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi; Dr. Larry Anderson; and Lauren Tyler, TJC director of student life.

Today, Oluseyi has three college degrees, including a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University. He is an astrophysicist, author, STEM educator, multi-patented inventor, science journalist, TV personality, science communicator and inspirational speaker. 
“You see someone like me and you think I’ve always had it good,” he said, “but I made it with hope, help from others, and a lot of hustle. If you believe in yourself and you believe in your dreams and people are willing to help you — you can make it.”
Oluseyi discusses his inspiring story in his memoir, “A Quantum Life: My Unlikely Journey from the Street to the Stars.” Due to the generosity of underwriters, each student received a copy of the book following Thursday’s event.
He originally sold the movie rights of his book to Universal Pictures, with actor Chadwick Boseman attached to play Oluseyi; but the movie deal fell through following Boseman’s death from cancer in 2020. The movie rights have since been resold to Oprah Winfrey’s production company, Harpo, and Robert DeNiro’s company, Tribeca Productions.
In recent years, Oluseyi has also been a familiar face on television, where he has been a featured astrophysics commentator on the Science Channel’s “How the Universe Works” and as a judge on the Netflix series, “Baking Impossible.” In 2017, while working at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., he led the public coverage of the solar eclipse.
On Monday, April 8, he will report on the total solar eclipse on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“I will be with the ‘GMA’ crew at the Dallas Arboretum, where I will be teamed with one of the anchors,” he said. “We will give a play-by-play of the eclipse just like sportscasters would do.”
This will be Oluseyi’s sixth total solar eclipse, and he provided a description of what first-time eclipse-watchers can expect:
“If the clouds and the weather are nice to us, you’re going to see things you’ve only seen in the movies,” he said. “First, if you’re in a place that’s flat and broad, you’re going to see the shadow of the moon rushing toward you across the landscape, and then you’ll see the sky begin to darken a little bit.
“Then, it will get really dark, you will feel the temperature drop, and then you’ll see the corona of the sun just pop out, and then you’re just mesmerized.
“And then it goes in reverse. The shadow of the moon will race away in the other direction, and you’ll just be left thinking, ‘What just happened?!’ It’s going to be amazing.”
About the TJC Powerful Voices series
The TJC Powerful Voices speaker series welcomes a diverse range of world-renowned innovators, leaders and scholars.
As experts in their various fields, speakers will deliver lively, challenging and informative presentations on timely topics, bringing new perspectives and ideas to TJC and the community.
For more information, go to

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