February 24, 2019
The National Society of Black Physicists honors Polite Stewart Jr. He is believed to be the youngest graduate in Southern University and A&M College’s history. After enrolling at the Baton Rouge, La., university at age 14, Stewart graduated cum laude at 18 with a degree in physics in 2012.
Polite Stewart Jr. is a physics prodigy. He is believed to be the youngest graduate in Southern University and A&M College’s history. After enrolling at the Baton Rouge, La., university at age 14, Stewart graduated cum laude at 18 with a degree in physics in 2012.
Stewart enrolled at Southern as a 14-year-old freshman in 2008, recommended to begin his college career after two years in the university’s Timbuktu Academy. The Academy, designed to foster comprehensive development in math and English, in preparation for standardized college readiness exams like the PSAT, SAT and ACT, soon proved to be a showcase for Stewart. He excelled in mastering the curriculum, and soon began tutoring high school students nearly four years older than he was in science.
“He shined like the rising sun,” said Dr. Diola Bagayoko, chairman of the Southern University Physics Department and director of the Timbuktu Academy. Bagayoko has worked with Stewart since he was 12 years old, and helped direct him to several research opportunities in Louisiana and beyond during his college career.
Stewart claims his first physics class at Timbuktu was when he realized Southern was right for him. He singled out one particular teacher. He says, “Dr. Stephen McGuire was one of those people who really made me feel like I was in the right place. He tried to teach theory behind problems, equations and concepts. He was cordial, polite, tried to get us to the point of actually thinking. He was one of the few that try to take us to our limit and past that.”
After graduating from Southern, Stewart worked for two years at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as a Post-Baccalaureate Research Fellow. After completing some work at his alma mater as a Web Designer and Hardware Engineer, Stewart landed a position at IBM where he currently serves as a Software Developer and is responsible for the development in Watson Health sector.