A scientist who helped find the so-called “God particle” says he could never have made that discovery if he hadn't first been found by God.
Rahmat Rahmat, Ph.D., was once a failing student with a bleak academic future.
Now, the Indonesia native is a noted scientist who contributed to the discovery of the so-called “God particle” — a discovery that is being hailed as one of the most significant scientific achievements of the 21st century. In addition, the Nobel Prize nominee helped develop the HF G-Flash, a simulation of electromagnetic showers used to advance physics research.
Rahmat, 38, said his transformation from struggling learner to top pupil occurred when, as a curious teen, he visited a place that had attracted many of his classmates.
It was there in the most unlikely of places — a small Christian church in his mostly Muslim native country — that he began to blossom academically and spiritually.
Rahmat said one day he accepted Jesus into his heart, and his destiny was forever altered.
That life-changing Gospel — being emphasized today as Resurrection Sunday, or Easter, in churches around the globe — proved eye-opening for the young Rahmat.
“I was a bad student in high school. I always got a minus — below F,” he said, shaking his head during a recent interview in Oklahoma City.
“The Bible opened my eyes to see the beauty of physics — the beauty of the universe.”
The faith that transformed him has now drawn Rahmat to Oklahoma.
He will lead the physics department at Mid-America Christian University, a private school affiliated with the Church of God, in fall 2013.
Rahmat said he was attracted to the school, which has campuses in Moore and northwest Oklahoma City, because of its faith-based foundation.
“I want to help students dream bigger and do greater for Jesus Christ,” he said.
A ‘God thing'
Kerry Park, Mid-America's vice president of communication, said Rahmat's personal mission in life ties in with the university's mission: to equip students to impact their world for Christ through achieving Bible-based academic excellence in a Christian environment, so that students professionally serve in their chosen vocation-ministry.
She said in that sense, Rahmat is a great role model for the students he will lead.
Kathaleen Reid-Martinez, the university's provost, agreed.
She said the university's leaders are thrilled to partner with the noted scientist, and bringing him to the metro area will give students an opportunity to learn from someone at the top of his field.
“It just converged at the right time,” Reid-Martinez said. “One could say it was a ‘God thing.'”
Putting faith above fame
The two university officials said it is clear that Rahmat, now a physics and astronomy instructor at Kentucky Community & Technical College, could be making other plans besides instructing college students.
Yet, the modest Rahmat has made it just as plain that teaching others is part of his Christian mission.
Rahmat was among an international group of scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) that announced the discovery of the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle in July 2012.
The Higgs boson, also known as the God particle, could help explain why all matter has mass and could be a catalyst for a new realm of subatomic science.
Earlier this month, Rahmat and his colleagues planned to confirm the discovery during a scientific gathering in La Thuile, Italy.
The confirmation made headlines almost as much as the papal election which loomed on the horizon at that time.
Instead of going to Italy for the scientific assembly, Rahmat chose to visit Oklahoma to meet with Mid-America leaders and prospective students.
‘Mustard seed' teaching
Rahmat said his parents were poor and knew education could help him climb out of poverty, but they had no idea how to motivate him academically.
He said when teachers called the family home to discuss his poor grades, his parents were perplexed.
“It was very sad. I felt very helpless,” Rahmat said, recalling this confusing time in his life.
Rahmat said the low point was receiving a minus score, which meant failure. He said his high point came just a year after he became a Christian and he received the highest exam score in his school of about 300 students.
“My parents got used to my grade card, but suddenly my grade card was different,” he said. “The next year, I was No. 1 in the school.”
Although the days of failing are long gone, Rahmat said he remembers what it was like attempting to grasp ideas and concepts that seemed too complex. That's why he loves academia and the chance to impart wisdom into the lives of eager-to-learn students.
He said the Higgs boson discovery will lead to other important discoveries, and he wants to help students be a part of unraveling such scientific mysteries. He and the Mid-America Christian University leaders said physics can be used to advance many things, including oil and gas exploration and technology. Rahmat knows about the latter because he worked for Apple and helped develop the technology for Apple's iPhone 4.
Meanwhile, Rahmat said he dislikes the description “God particle” that has been used to describe the Higgs boson discovery in pop culture. Some individuals have suggested that the particle explains the Big Bang Theory, which asserts that the universe was instantly created from a subatomic fragment. Some people suggest the theory — and the recent discovery of the Higgs boson — could nullify Christianity's belief that God created the universe.
Rahmat said he doesn't see it that way.
He uses a biblical principle to help explain the Higgs boson. In Scripture, Jesus used the mustard seed to explain the power of faith.
Rahmat said he sees the Higgs boson in a similar way.
“A mustard seed is tiny, but it explodes into something huge,” Rahmat said. “It gives us the concept of the expanding universe.”
The faith principle is one Rahmat — with his humble beginnings — knows very well.