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Sekazi Mtingwa

Research physicist and physics professor Sekazi K. Mtingwa was born on October 20, 1949 in Atlanta, Georgia. After receiving his B.S. degrees in physics and pure mathematics (Phi Beta Kappa) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1971, Mtingwa enrolled at Princeton University and graduated from there with his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in theoretical high energy physics in 1976. Mtingwa was awarded doctoral fellowships from the National Fellowships Fund and the Ford Foundation. Upon graduation, he was awarded post-doctoral fellowships and research assistantships at the University of Rochester, the University of Maryland at College Park, and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab).

In 1981, Mtingwa joined Fermilab as a research physicist where he, along with James Bjorken, developed a theory of particle beam dynamics, “intrabeam scattering,” which standardized the performance limitations on a wide class of modern accelerators. Mtingwa also played an important role in the design and construction of two of the Antiproton Source accelerator systems at Fermilab that were used in the discovery of the top quark and other particles. During 1988-1991, Mtingwa joined the staff of Argonne National Laboratory where he performed research on a futuristic accelerator concept called wakefield acceleration. In 1991, Mtingwa joined the faculty at North Carolina A & T State University as Chair and Professor of physics. Mtingwa was named J. Ernest Wilkins, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Physics at Morgan State University in 1997 and then returned to North Carolina A & T State University in 1999. He served as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Professor of Physics at MIT from 2001 to 2003. He joined the faculty at Harvard University in 2003, where he served as Visiting Professor of Physics for two years. Returning to MIT in 2006, Mtingwa was named Lead Physics Lecturer in the Concourse Program in the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education. He was also appointed as the Faculty Director of Academic Programs in the Office of Minority Education. In 2011, he became Principal Partner of Triangle Science, Education & Economic Development, LLC and he was appointed Senior Physics Consultant at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

In addition to his research activities, Mtingwa is involved in a number of national and international initiatives. He is a founder of the African Laser Centre (ALC) and was the principal author of the Strategy and Business Plan upon which the ALC is based. In 1977, Mtingwa was a co-founder of the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP) and served as NSBP President from 1992 to 1994.

Mtingwa has been recognized by national and international organizations for his contributions to science. In 1996, he received the Outstanding Service Award for Contributions to the African American Physics Community from the National Society of Black Physicists. The National Council of Ghanaian Associations honored Mtingwa with the Science Education Award in 2007 for advancing science education among African peoples. Mtingwa was inducted into the African American Biographies Hall of Fame in 1994, and he was elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2008.

Sekazi Mtingwa is married to W. Estella Johnson; they have two daughters.

Research physicist and physics professor Sekazi K. Mtingwa was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 6, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.076

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/6/2013

Last Name

Mtingwa

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Kauze

Occupation
Schools

Princeton University

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Henry McNeal Turner High School

Alonzo F. Herndon Elementary

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Sekazi

Birth City, State, Country

Atlanta

HM ID

MTI01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cape Town, South Africa

Favorite Quote

Stay yourself.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

North Carolina

Birth Date

10/20/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Hillsborough

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Sea Bass (Mediterranean)

Short Description

Nuclear physicist Sekazi Mtingwa (1949 - ) contributed to the design and construction of the accelerator systems used in the discovery of the top quark at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Mtingwa is a founder of the National Society of Black Physicists and the National Society of Hispanic Physicists, and he has made significant contributions to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education.

Employment

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Harvard University

North Carolina A&T State University

Morgan State University

Argonne National Laboratory

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

University of Rochester

University of Maryland, College Park

Favorite Color

Salmon

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sekazi Mtingwa's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sekazi Mtingwa lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes his father's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about his stepfather

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about his neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about his schools

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes when he first decided to become a physicist

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about his high school extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about his high school mentors

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about transitioning from high school to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about the formation of the black student union at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about the black student union at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about why he chose physics as his field

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about his mentors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton University

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about Alexander Pushkin pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about Alexander Pushkin pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about his time at Princeton University

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes his doctoral dissertation

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about changing his name

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes assisting in the establishment of a university in Tanzania

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes what he did after receiving his doctoral degree from Princeton University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about his work at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sekazi Mtingwa explains the Higgs boson, dark matter, and dark energy

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes his involvement in the Harold Washington Campaign

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes why he joined the group at Argonne National Laboratory

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about being featured in several magazines

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes his involvement in various African organizations

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes his physics research as an exchange scholar in the Soviet Union

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about racial prejudice in the field of physics

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about the International Linear Collider

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes his time as the Chair of the Physics Department at North Carolina A & T University

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes his involvement in the African Laser Centre

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes how the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has changed since he was a student

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about visiting Russia for a nuclear waste disposal examination

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Sekazi Mtingwa reflects on his awards and recognitions

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes his study 'Readiness of the U.S. Nuclear Workforce for Twenty-first Century Problems'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about his involvement in President Barack Obama's campaigns

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about being the chair of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Study

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes his visit to Tanzania

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes his involvement with organization that provide access to scientific instruments

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes his involvement in the African Physical Society

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about his work on textbooks

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Sekazi Mtingwa describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Sekazi Mtingwa reflects on his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Sekazi Mtingwa reflects on his life

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about his family

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Sekazi Mtingwa talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

1$5

DATitle
Sekazi Mtingwa talks about the black student union at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sekazi Mtingwa describes his study 'Readiness of the U.S. Nuclear Workforce for Twenty-first Century Problems'
Transcript
Tell us about the beginnings of the black student union at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts]?$$Okay. So we had a group, maybe about ten students, who would get together informally to meet. And you have to understand that the context of that period, with the Vietnam War, protests going on all over the place, you know, the Black Liberation Movement was in full swing. So, some of us, you know, were a part of that type of way of thinking, and we wanted to try to move MIT ahead. So we formed around 1968, probably the fall of '68 [1968]. The first co-chairs were Shirley Jackson, and I think The HistoryMakers did an interview of her. She's now president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute [Troy, New York]. And James Turner, who was a graduate student--in fact, at that time, they were both graduate students. Shirley was three years ahead of me. So my sophomore year, she was a first-year graduate student. James Turner, I think he must have been about a third or fourth-year graduate student in physics; they were both in physics. And James Turner actually most--he went on to become a top official at the Department of Energy, and most recently, I think, he's been at the Department of Commerce. But he had quite a career at the top levels of federal government. But, yeah, we basically met and we decided, "Hey let's just do this." And so we formed. And we tried to--one of the biggest initiatives was to get more black students into MIT. So we worked hard on that. And so, at the end of my sophomore year going into the junior year, that entering class went from the typical five-ish to fifty-three. And so the numbers have been big ever since. And, in fact, to this day MIT, again, admits only out of a thousand, eleven hundred students; about 20 percent of those are African Americans; and another 20 percent or so are Latino-Americans. So that we've (simultaneous)--$$(Unclear)--$$--come a long ways. Yeah. But it's interesting. One of the interesting things that helped the African American presence is the students who are immigrants or who are children of African Caribbean immigrants, because that's one thing that you note from the names when you meet many of the students. So that has really helped us intellectually. The black community in this country intellectually has been tremendously enhanced by immigrant students. They come here with a parent wanting a better life for their children, and so they come with that, you know, "Go to college, get your degree," and all that. And you can see the pay off. I don't think we could hit 20 percent of the students, African American students, if we didn't have the immigrants.$$They have a good observation.$$Yeah. It's a great thing. I tend to be a Pan-African, is to me, whether you're from the Caribbean, the continental of the U.S., we're all African peoples.$$Is this something you learned at home or something that you--$$No. I got so much at home, but just as I developed as a graduate student--really as a graduate student, I really became, you know, convinced that, you know, we're all the same. And then having traveled to Africa, you know, so many times. I think that the way people colonize, it's just--it's very similar to--the stories you hear are very similar to the stories of people like me out of Jim Crow South.$$Okay. Just in a different location.$$Just in a different location.$$Similar situations.$$Similar situations, yeah. Yeah.$$And--now. All right. So, the BSU [black student union] really made some gains (unclear).$$Oh, yeah. Definitely. Definitely.$$And I know it still exists actually.$$It still exists. It still exists.$$Shot a picture of it when I was there (simultaneous) (unclear)--$$Oh, you did? All right. That was great.$$--I was walking down the hallway and I saw it. And I said, "Oh, this is the famous BSU at MIT." And I thought--I shot it on my phone (simultaneous) (unclear)--$$Oh, really. Okay.$$--as to--yeah.$$(unclear), you know, it's still alive and well.$$Yeah. Yeah. So many of the people we met were a part--$$It was a part of that, yes.$Now, you were on the Nuc-- the 'Readiness of the U.S. Nuclear Workforce.'$$Okay, yeah. So that was a study I did because I'm--we have a real problem with training, you know, the next generation of nuclear scientists and engineers. And at one point, the Department of Energy, DOE, was cutting back funding the university programs, so I was concerned. You know, if you start cutting back, who is going to operate? Who's going to design the next generation of nuclear reactors if the people are not being educated? So we did this study, and we pointed out to them, you know, how many people are graduating, how much money is going into the university programs. And this report turned out to be extremely important in convincing DOE to turn its attitude around toward university education. And so since this report, their 20 percent of the nuclear fuel--Research and Development Budget--nuclear fuel cycle, Research and Development Budget is going to universities. So, I mean, that's like a big flip from not wanting to give in until now, 20 percent of your funding is going to universities. And that's important. Most of the money goes to the National Laboratories to work on the big problems of nuclear waste storage and so forth. But you need to have university professors and students working on new ideas. You know, turn them loose and let them dream and pursue blue-sky research, because you don't know what major revolution they may start up; what major breakthrough. And so that was the point of that whole story, to try to get more money going to universities to promote students and new ideas.